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Full text of "The awakening"

THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 




ENDOWED BY THE 
DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 
* *' SOCIETIES 



PS 129^ 

.C63 

A6U 

1899 



MAY - ? Wi 




00007062778 



■4. : 



'975 

2975 



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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

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iUN^S^Ist 6 



The Awakeninj 



The . 

Awakenin 



By 

KATE CHOPIN 

Author of "A NIGHT IN ACADIE, 
"BAYOU FOLKS," Etc. 



MM 




HERBERT S. STONE & COMPANY 

CHICAGO & NEW YORK 

MDCCCXCIX 



COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY 
HERBERT S. STONE & CO. 



THE AWAKENING 



I 

A green and yellow parrot, which hung 
in a cage outside the door, kept repeating 
over and over: 

"Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! 
That's all right!" 

He could speak a little Spanish, and also 
a language which nobody understood, un- 
less it was the mocking-bird that hung on 
the other side of the door, whistling his 
fluty notes out upon the breeze with mad- 
dening persistence. 

Mr. Pontellier, unable to read his news- 
paper with any degree of comfort, arose 
with an expression and an exclamation of 
disgust. He walked down the gallery and 
across the narrow ''bridges" which con- 
nected the JLebrun cottages one with the 
other. He ha4-b#en seated before the door 
of the main house. The parrot and the 



913 



2 THE AWAKENING 

mocking-bird were the property of Madame 
Lebrun, and they had the right to make all 
the noise they wished. Mr. Pontellier had 
the privilege of quitting their society when 
they ceased to be entertaining. 

He stopped before the door of his own 
cottage, which was the fourth one from the 
main building and next to the last. Seat- 
ing himself in a wicker rocker which was 
there, he once more applied himself to the 
task of reading the newspaper. The day 
was Sunday; the paper was a day old. 
The Sunday papers had not yet reached 
Grand Isle. He was already acquainted 
with the market reports, and he glanced 
restlessly over the editorials and bits of 
news which he had not had time to read 
before quitting New Orleans the day before. 

Mr. Pontellier wore eye-glasses. He was 
a man of forty, of medium height and 
rather slender build ; he stooped a little. 
His hair was brown and straight, parted on 
one side. His beard was neatly and closely 
trimmed. 

Once in a while he withdrew his glance 
from the newspaper and looked about him. 



THE AWAKENING 3 

There was more noise than ever over at 
the house. The main building was called 
"the house," to distinguish it from the cot- 
tages. The chattering and whistling birds 
were still at it. Two young girls, the 
Farival twins, were playing a duet from 
"Zampa" upon the piano. Madame 
Lebrun was bustling in and out, giving 
orders in a high key to a yard-boy whenever 
she got inside the house, and directions in 
an equally high voice to a dining-room 
servant whenever she got outside. '. $he was 
a fresh, pretty woman, clad always in white 
with elbow sleeves. , Her starched skirts 
crinkled as she came and went. Farther 
down, before one of the cottages, a lady in 
black was walking demurely up and down, 
telling her beads. A good many persons of 
the pension had gone over to the Chiniere 
Caminada in Beaudelet's lugger to hear 
mass. Some young people were out under 
the water-oaks pj^in^_£mcpet. Mr. Pon- 
tellier's two children were there — sturdy 
little fellows of four and five. A quadroon 
nurse followed them about with a far-away, 
meditative air. 



4 THE AWAKENING 

Mr. Pontellier finally lit a cigar and be- 
gan to smoke, letting the paper drag idly 
from his hand. He fixed his gaze upon 
a white sunshade that was advancing at 
snail's pace from the beach. He could 
see it plainly between the gaunt trunks of 
the water-oaks and across the stretch of yel- 
low camomile. The gulf looked far away, 
melting hazily into the blue of the hori- 
zon. The sunshade continued to approach 
slowly. Beneath its pink-lined shelter were 
his wife, Mrs. Pontellier, and young Robert 
Lebrun. When they reached the cottage, 
the two seated themselves with some ap- 
pearance of fatigue upon the upppr step of 
the porch, facing each other, each leaning 
against a supporting post. 

"What folly! to bathe at such an hour in 
such heat!" exclaimed Mr. Pontellier. He 
himself had taken a plunge at daylight. 
That was why the morning seemed long to 
him. 

"You are burnt beyond recognition," he 
added, looking at his wife as one looks at a 
valuable piece of personal property which 
has suffered some damage. She held up 



THE AWAKENING 5 

her hands, strong, shapely hands, and sur- 
veyed them critically, drawing up her lawn 
sleeves above the wrists. Looking at thei 
reminded her of her rings, which she had 
given to her husband before leaving for the 
beach. She silently reached out to him, 
and he, understanding, took the rings from 
his vest pocket ajid-dropped^them into her 
open palm. She slipped them "upon her 
fingers ; then claspk^g her knees, she lool 
across at Robert and bbgan to laugh. The 
rings sparkled upon her fingers. He sent 
back an answering smile. 

"What is it?" asked Pontellier, looking 
lazily and amused from one to the other. 
It was some utter nonsense; some adven- 
ture out there in the water, and they both 
tried to relate it at once. It did not seem 
half so amusing when told. They realized 
this, and so did Mr. Pontellier. He yawned 
and stretched himself. Then he got up, 
saying he had half a mind to go over 
to Klein's hotel and play a game of 
billiards. 

"Come go along, Lebrun, ' ' he proposed to 
Robert. But Robert admitted quite frankly 



6 THE AWAKENING 

that he preferred to stay where he was and 
talk to Mrs. Pontellier. 

"Well, send him about his business when 
he bores you, Edna," instructed her hus- 
band as he prepared to leave. 

"Here, take the umbrella," she ex- 
claimed, holding it out to him. He 
accepted the sunshade, and lifting it over 
his head descended the steps and walked 
away. 

"Coming back to dinner?" his wife called 
after him. He halted a moment and 
shrugged his shoulders. He felt in his vest 
pocket; there was a ten-dollar bill there. 
He did not know; perhaps he would return 
for the early dinner and perhaps he would 
not. It all depended upon the company 
which he found over at Klein's and the size 
of "the game." He did not say this, but 
she understood it, and laughed, - nodding" 
goo"cbby r tcTTiim. r=> 

Both children wanted to follow their 
father when they saw him starting out. He 
kissed them and promised to bring them 
back bonbons and peanuts. 



II 



Mr s^ Ponr,ellierJ s eyes w ere quick and 
bright ; they were a yellowish brown, about 
the color of her hair. She had a way of 
turning them swiftly upon an object and 
holding them there as if lost in some inward 
maze of contemplation or thought. 

Her eyebrows were a shade darker than 
her hair. They were thick and almost hori- 
zontal, emphasizing the depth of her eyes. 
She was rather handsome than beautiful. 

)y~ reason of a ceri- 



Her face was captivating " 
tain frankness of expression and a contra- 
dictory subtle play of features. Her man- 
ner was engagin g. 

Robert rolled a cigarette. He srnoj 
cigarettes because he could not afford 
cigars, he said. He had a cigar in his 



pocket which Mr. Pontellier had presented 
him with, and he was saving it for his after- 
dinner smoke. 

This seemed quite proper and natural on 

7 



8 THE AWAKENING 

his part. In coloring he was not unlike his 
companion. A clean-shaved face made the 
resemblance more pronounced than it would 
otherwise have been. There rested no 
shadow of care upon his open countenance. 
His eyes gathered in and reflected the light 
and languor of the summer day. 

Mrs. Pontellier reached over for a palm- 
leaf fan that lay on the porch and began to 
fan herself, while Robert sent between his 
lips light puffs from his cigarette. They 
chatted incessantly: about the things 
around them ; their amusing adventure out 
in the water — it had again assumed its enter- 
taining aspect; about the wind, the trees, 
the people who had gone to the Cheniere; 
about the children playing croquet under 
the oaks, and the Farival twins, who were 
now performing the overture to "The Poet 
and the Peasant." 

Robert talked a good deal about himself. 
He was very young, and did not know 
any better. Mrs. Pontellier talked a little 
about herself for the same reason. Each 
was interested in what the other said. Rob- 
ert spoke of his intention to go to Mexico 



THE AWAKENING 9 

in the autumn, where fortune awaited him. 
He was alway s intending to go to Mexico, 
but some way never got there. Meanwhile 
he held on to his modest position in a mer- 
cantile house in New Orleans, where an 
equal familiarity with English, French and 
Spanish gave him no small value as a clerk 
and correspondent. 

He was spending his summer vacation, 
as he always did, with his mother at Grand 
Isle. In former times, before Robert could 
remember, "the house" had been a summer 
luxury of the Lebruns. Now, flanked by 
its dozen or more cottages, which were 
always filled with exclusive visitors from the 
1 ' Quartier Fran^ais, ' ' it enabled Madame 
Lebrun to maintain the easy and comfort- 
able existence which appeared to be her 
birthright. 

Mrs. Pontellier talked about her father's * 
Mississippi plantation and her girlhood 
home in the old Kentuck)' blue-grass coun- 
try. She was an_^AjnerkaTr^wTjrrraft r - : with- a. 
small infusion of French which seemed to 
have been lost in dilution. She read a let- 
ter from her sister, who was away in the 



io THE AWAKENING 

East, and who had engaged herself to be 
married. Robert was interested, and 
wanted to know what manner of girls the 
sisters were, what the father was like, and 
how long the mother had been dead. 

When Mrs. Pontellier folded the letter it 
was time for her to dress for the early din- 
ner. 

"I see Leonce isn't coming back," she 
said, with a glance in the direction whence 
her husband had disappeared. Robert 
supposed he was not, as there were a good 
many New Orleans club men over at Klein's. 

When Mrs. Pontellier left him to enter 
her room, the young man descended the 
steps and strolled over toward the croquet 
players, where, during the half-hour before 
dinner, he amused himself with the little 
Pontellier children, who were very fond of 
him. 



Ill 

It was eleven o'clock that night when 
Mr. Pontellier returned from Klein's hotel. 
He was in an excellent humor, in high spir- 
its, and very talkative. His entrance awoke 
his wife, who was in bed and fast asleep 
when he came in. He talked to her while 
he undressed, telling her anecdotes and bits 
of news and gossip that he had gathered dur- 
ing the day. From his trousers pockets he 
took a fistful of crumpled bank notes and 
a good deal of silver coin, which he piled 
on the bureau indiscriminately with keys, 
knife, handkerchief, and whatever else hap- 
pened to be in his pockets. She was over- 
come with sWpL^nrL ajiswprf d jijmj with little 
half uttera nces . 

r He thought it very discouraging that 
his wife, who was the sole object of his 
existence, evinced so little interest in things 
which concerned him, and valued so little 
his conversation. 



12 THE AWAKENING 

Mr. Pontellier had forgotten the bonbons 
and peanuts for the boys. Notwithstand- 
ing he loved them very much, and went into 
the adjoining room where they slept to take 
a look at them and make sure that they 
were resting comfortably. The result of 
his investigation was far from satisfactory. 
He turned and shifted the youngsters about 
in bed. One of them began to kick and 
talk about a basket full of crabs. 

Mr. Pontellier returned to his wife with 
the information that Raoul had a high 
fever and needed looking after. Then he lit 
a cigar and went and sat near the open door 
to smoke it. 

Mrs. Pontellier was quite sure Raoul had 
no fever. He had gone to bed perfectly 
well, she said, and nothing had ailed him all 
day. Mr. Pontellier was too well acquainted 
with fever symptoms to be mistaken. He 
assured her the child was consuming at that 
moment in the next room. 

He reproached his wife with her inatten- 
tion, her habitual neglect of the children. 
If it was not a mother's place to look after 
children, whose on earth was it? He him- 



THE AWAKENING 13 

self had his hands full with his brokerage 
business. He could not be in two places at 
once; making a living for his family on the 
street, and staying at home to see that no 
harm befell them. He talked in a monoto- 
nous, insistent way. 

Mrs. Pontellier sprang out of bed and 
went into the next room. She soon came 
back and sat on the edge of the bed, lean- 
ing her head down on the pillow. She said 
nothing, and refused to answer her husband 
when he questioned her. When his cigar 
was smoked out he went to bed, and in 
half a minute he was fast asleep. 

Mrs. Pontellier was by that time thor- 
oughly awake. She began to cry a little, 
and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her 
peignoir. Blowing out the candle, which 
her husband had left burning, she slipped 
her bare feet into a pair of satin mules at the 
foot of the bed and went out on the porch, 
where she sat down in the wicker chair and 
began to rock gently to and fro. 

It was then past midnight. The cottages 
were all dark. A single faint light gleamed 



14 THE AWAKENING 

out from the hallway of the house. There 
was no sound abroad except the hooting of 
an old owl in the top of a water-oak, and 
the everlasting voice of the sea, that was 
not uplifted at that soft hour. It broke 
like a mournful lullaby upon the night. 

The tears came so fast to Mrs. Pontellier's 
eyes that the damp sleeve of her peignoir no 
longer served to dry them. She was hold- 
ing the back of her chair with one hand ; 
her loose sleeve had slipped almost to the 
shoulder of her uplifted arm. Turning, she 
thrust her face, steaming and wet, into the 
bend of her arm, and she went on crying 
there, not caring any longer to dry her face, 
her eyes, her arms. She could not have 
told why she was crying . Such experiences 
as tKe" foregoing were not uncommon in her 
married life. They seemed never before to 
have weighed much against the abundance 
of her husband's kindness and a uniform 
devotion which had come to be tacit and 
self-understood. 

/An indescribable oppression, which seemed 
to generate in some unfamiliar part of her 
consciousness, filled her whole being with a 



THE AWAKENING 15 

vague anguish. It was like a shadow, like 
a mist passing across her soul's summer 
day. I It was strange and unfamiliar^ i t was 
a mood. She did not sit there inwardly 
Upbraiding her husband, lamenting at Fate, 
which had directed her footsteps to the 
path which they had taken. She was just 
having a good cry all to herself./' The 
mosquitoes made merry over her, biting her 
firm, round arms and nipping at her bare 
insteps. 

The little stinging, buzzing imps suc- 
ceeded in dispelling a mood which might 
have held her there in the darkness half a 
night longer. 

The following morning Mr. Pontellier was 
up in good time to take the rockaway which 
was to convey him to the steamer at the 
wharf. He was returning to the city to his 
business, and they would not see him again 
-at the Island till the coming Saturday. He 
had regained his composure, which seemed 
to have been somewhat impaired the night 
before. He was eager to be gone, as he 
looked forward to a lively week in Caron- 
delet Street. 



16 THE AWAKENING 

Mr. Pontellier gave his wife half of the 
money which he had brought away from 
Klein's hotel the evening before. She liked 
money as well as most women, and accepted 
it with no little satisfaction. 

"It will buy a handsome wedding present 
for Sister Janet!" she exclaimed, smooth- 
ing out the bills as she counted them one 
by one. 

"Oh! we'll treat Sister Janet better than 
that, my dear," he laughed, as he prepared 
to kiss her good-by. 

The boys were tumbling about, clinging 
to his legs, imploring that numerous things 
be brought back to them. I Mr. Pontellier 
was a great favorite, and ladies, men, chil- 
dren, even nurses, were always on hand to 
say good-by to him?\ His wife stood smil- 
ing and waving, the boys shouting, as he 
disappeared in the old rockaway down the 
sandy road. 

A few days later a box arrived for Mrs. 
Pontellier from New Orleans. It was from 
her husband. It was filled with friandises, 
with luscious and toothsome bits — the finest 



THE AWAKENING 17 

of fruits, path, a rare bottle or two, delicious 
syrups, and bonbons in abundance. 

Mrs. Pontellier was always very generous 
with the contents of such a box; she was 
quite used to receiving them when away 
from home. The path and fruit were 
brought to the dining-room; the bonbons 
were passed around. And the ladies, 
selecting with dainty and discriminating 
fingers and a little greedily, all declared that 
Mr fonf^lliVr wac i-h* best husband in the 
world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit 
that she knew of none better. 



IV 

It would have been a difficult matter for 
Mr. Pontellier to define to his own satisfac- 
tion or any one else's wherein his wife failed 
in her duty toward their children. It was 
something which he felt rather than per- 
ceived, and he never voiced the feeling with- 
^ out subsequent regret and ample atone- 
ment. 

If one of the little Pontellier boys took 
a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to 
rush crying to his mother's arms for com- 
fort; he would more likely pick himself up, 
wipe the water out of his eyes and the sand 
out of his mouth, and go on playing. Tots 
as they were, they pulled together and 
stood their ground in childish battles with 
doubled fists and uplifted voices, which 
usually prevailed against the other mother- 
tots. The quadroon nurse was looked upon 
as a huge encumbrance, only good to but- 
ton up waists and panties and to brush and 



THE AWAKENING 19 

part hair; since it seemed to be a law of 
society that hair must be parted and 
brushed. 

In short, I V^rs. P ontellier w_as not a 
mnt-hpr- woman. Th e mother- women seemed 
to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It 
was easy to know them, fluttering about 
with extended, protecting wings when any 
harm, real or imaginary, threatened their 
precious brood. They were women who 
idolized their children, worshiped their 
husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege 
to efface themselves as individuals and grow 
wings as ministering angels. 

Many of them were delicious in the role ; 
one of them was the embodiment of every 
womanly grace and charm. If her husband 
did not adore her, he was a brute, deserv- 
ing of death by slow torture. Her name 
was AHe )e "P aHcrnollfl,. There are no 
words^to describe her save the old ones 
that have served so often to picture the by- 
gone heroine of romance and the fair lady 
of our dreams. There was nothing subtle 
or hidden about her charms; her beauty 



was all there, flaming and apparent: 



f 



20 THE AWAKENING 

spun-gold hair that comb nor confining pin 
could restrain ; the blue eyes that were like 
nothing but sapphires; two lips that pouted, 
that were so red one could only think of 
cherries or some other delicious crimson 
fruit in looking at them. She was growing 
a little stout, but it did not seem to detract 
an iota from the grace of every step, pose, 
gesture. One would not have wanted her 
white neck a mite less full or her beautiful 
arms more slender. Never were hands 
more exquisite than hers, and it was a joy 
to look at them when she threaded her 
needle or adjusted her gold thimble to her 
taper middle finger as she sewed away on 
the little night-drawers or fashioned a bodice 
or a bib. 

Madame Ratignolle was very fond of Mrs, 
Pontellier, and often she took her sewing 
and went over to sit with her in the after- 
noons. She was sitting there the afternoon 
of the day the box arrived from New 
Orleans. She had possession of the rocker, 
and she was busily engaged in sewing upon 
a diminutive pair of night-drawers. 

She had brought the pattern of the draw- 



THE AWAKENING 21 

ers for Mrs. Pontellier to cut out — a marvel 
of construction, fashioned to enclose a 
baby's body so effectually that only two 
small eyes might look out from the gar- 
ment, like an Eskimo's. They were de- 
signed for winter wear, when treacherous 
drafts came down chimneys and insidious 
currents of deadly cold found their way 
through key-holes. 

Mrs. Pontellier's mind was quite at rest 
concerning the present material needs of her 
children, and she could not see the use of 
anticipating and making winter night gar- 
ments the subject of her summer medita- 
tions. But she did not want to appear 
unamiable and uninterested, so she had 
brought forth newspapers, which she spread 
upon the floor of the gallery, and under 
Madame Ratignolle's directions she had cut 
a pattern of the impervious garment. 

Robert was there, seated as he had been 
the Sunday before, and Mrs. Pontellier also 
occupied her former position on the upper 
step, leaning listlessly against the post. Be- 
side her was a box of bonbons, which she 
held out at intervals to Madame Ratignolle. 



22 THE AWAKENING 

That lady seemed at a loss to make a selec- 
tion, but finally settled upon a stick of nugat, 
wondering if it were not too rich ; whether 
it could possibly hurt her. Madame Ratig- 
nolle had been married seven years. About 
every two years she had a baby. At that 
time she had three babies, and was begin- 
ning to think of a fourth one. She was 
always talking about her "condition." 
Her "condition" was in no way apparent, 
and no one would have known a thing about 
it but for her persistence in making it the 
subject of conversation. 

Robert started to reassure her, asserting 
that he had known a lady who had sub- 
sisted upon nugat during the entire — but 
seeing the color mount into Mrs. Pontel- 
lier's face he checked himself and changed 
rthe subject. 
O Mrs. Pontellier, though she had married 
^a. Creole, was not thoroughly at home in 
the society of Creoles ; never before had she 
been thrown so intimately among them. 
There were only Creoles that summer at 
Lebrun's. They all knew each other, and 
felt like one large family, among whom 



THE AWAKENING 23 

existed the most amicable relations. A 
characteristic which distinguished them and 
which impressed Mrs. Pontellier most for- 
cibly was their entire absence of prudery. 
Their freedom of expression was at first 
incomprehensible to her, though she had k^» 
no difficulty in reconciling it with a lofty*^"f\. 
chastity which in the Creole woman seems 
to be inborn and unmistakable. 

Never would Edna Pontellier forget the 
shock with which she heard Madame Ratig- 
nolle relating to old Monsieur Farival the 
harrowing story of one of her accouchcments, 
withholding no intimate detail. She was 
growing accustomed to like shocks, but she 
could not keep the mounting color back from 
her cheeks. Oftener than once her coming 
had interrupted the droll story with which 
Robert was entertaining some amused group 
of married women. 

A book had gone the rounds of the 
pension. When it came her turn to read it, 
she did so with profound astonishment. She 
felt moved to read the book in secret and 
solitude, though none of the others had 
done so — to hide it from view at the sound 



24 THE AWAKENING 

of approaching footsteps. It was openly 
criticised and freely discussed at table. 
Mrs. Pontellier gave over being astonished, 
and concluded that wonders would never 
cease. 



s 

V 

They formed a congenial group sitting 
there that summer afternoon — Madame Rat- 
ignolle sewing away, often stopping to relate 
a story or incident with much expressive 
gesture of her perfect hands; Robert and 
Mrs. Pontellier sitting idle, exchanging 
occasional words, glances or smiles which 
indicated a certain advanced stage of inti- 
macy and camaraderie. 

He had lived in her shadow during the 
past month. No one thought anything" of 
it. Many had predicted that Robert would 
devote himself to Mrs. Pontellier when he 
arrived. Since the age of fifteen, which 
was eleven years before, Robert each sum- 
mer at Grand Isle had constituted himself 
the devoted attendant of some fair dame or 
damsel. Sometimes it was a young girl, 
again a widow; but as often as not it was 
some interesting married woman. 

For two consecutive seasons he lived in 
25 



2 6 THE AWAKENING 

the sunlight of Mademoiselle Duvigne's 
presence. But she died between summers; 
then Robert posed as an inconsolable, pros- 
trating himself at the feet of Madame 
Ratignolle for whatever crumbs of sympa- 
thy and comfort she might be pleased to 
vouchsafe. 

Mrs. Pontellier liked to sit and gaze at 
her fair companion as she might look upon 
a faultless Madonna. 

"Could any one fathom the cruelty be- 
neath that fair exterior?" murmured Robert. 
"She knew that I adored her once, and she 
let me adore her. It was 'Robert, come; 
go; stand up; sit down; do this; do that; 
see if the baby sleeps; my thimble, please, 
that I left God knows where. Come and 
read Daudet to me while I sew.' " 

"Par exemple! I never had to ask. You 
were always there under my feet, like a 
troublesome cat." 

"You mean like an adoring dog. And 
just as soon as Ratignolle appeared on the 
scene, then it was like a dog. l Passes I 
Adieu! Allez vous-en? 

"Perhaps I feared to make Alphonse 



THE AWAKENING 27 

jealous," she interjoined, with excessive 
naivete. That made them all laugh. The 
right hand jealous of the left! The heart 
jealous of the soul ! But for that matter, 
the Creole husband is never jealous; with 
him the gangrene passion is one which has 
become dwarfed by disuse. 

Meanwhile Robert, addressing Mrs. Pon- 
tellier, continued to tell of his one time 
hopeless passion for Madame Ratignolle; 
of sleepless nights, ,_of consuming flames till 
the v ery sea sizzled when he t ook his daily 
plun ge. While the lady at the needle kept 
up a little running, contemptuous com- 
ment: 

"Blagueur — -farceur — gros bete, vaf 
He never assumed this serio-comic tone 
when alone with Mrs. Pontellier. She 
never knew precisely what to make of it ; 
at that moment it was impossible for her to 
guess how much of it jjras jest and what 
proportion was earnest.Y_Jt was understood 
that he had often spoken words of love to 
Madame Ratignolle, without any thought 
of being taken seriousfyT\ Mrs. Pontellier 
was glad he had not assumed ajymilar roI<f 



28 THE AWAKENING 

toward herself. It would have been unac- 
ceptable and annoying. 



Mrs. Pontellier haS brought her sketching 
materials, which she sometimes dabbled with 
in an unprofessional way. She liked the 
dabbling. She felt in it satisfaction of a 
kind which no other employment afforded 
her. 

She had long wished to try herself on 
Madame Ratignolle. Never had that lady 
seemed a more tempting subject than at 
that moment, seated there like some sensu- 
ous Madonna, with the gleam of the fading 
day enriching her splendid color. 

Robert crossed over and seated himself 
upon the step below Mrs. Pontellier, that 
he might watch her work. She handled her 
brushes with a certain ease and freedom 
which came, not from long and close 
acquaintance with them, but from a natural 
aptitude. Robert followed her work with 
close attention, giving forth little ejacula- 
tory expressions of appreciation in French, 
which he addressed to Madame Ratignolle. 

11 Mais ce nest pas mall Elle s y y connait, elle 
a de la force ; oui. ' ' 



THE AWAKENING 29 

I During his oblivious attention he once 
quietly rested his head against Mrs. Pontel- 
lier's arm. As gently she repulsed him. 
Once again he repeated the offense/} She 
could not but believe it to be thoughtless- 
ness on his part ; yet that was no reason she 
should submit to it. She did not remon- 
strate, except again to repulse him quietly 
but firmly. He offered no apology. 

The picture completed bore no resem- 
blance to Madame Ratignolle. She was 
greatly disappointed to find that it did not 
look like her. But it was a fair enough 
piece of work, and in many respects satisfy- 
ing. 

Mrs. Pontellier evidently did not think 
so. After surveying the sketch critically 
she drew a broad smudge of paint across its 
surface, and crumpled the paper between 
her hands. 

The youngsters came tumbling up the 
steps, the quadroon following at the 
respectful distance which they required her 
to observe. Mrs. Pontellier made them 
carry her paints and things into the house. 
She sought to detain them for a little 



3 o THE AWAKENING 

talk and some pleasantry. But they were 
greatly in earnest. They had only come 
to investigate the contents of the bon- 
bon box. They accepted without murmur- 
ing what she chose to give them, each 
holding out two chubby hands scoop-like, 
in the vain hope that they might be filled ; 
and then away they went. 

The sun was low in the west, and the 
breeze, ^of t and lan guorous t hcLt, came up 
from the south, rTiarcrpH yith th £ Sfidu&lffig 
odor of the sea. Children, freshly befur- 
bdawettr™T^regathering for their games 
under the oaks. Their voices were high and 
penetrating. 

Madame Ratignolle folded her sewing, 

placing thimble, scissors and thread all 

neatly together in the roll, which she pinned 

securely. She complained of faintness. 

Mrs. Pontellier flew for the cologne water 

and a fan. She bathed Madame Ratig- 

nolle's face with cologne, while Robert 

plied the fan with unnecessary vigor. 

I The spell was soon over, and Mrs. Pon- 

| tellier could not help wondering if there were 

flnot a little imagination responsible for its 



THE AWAKENING 31 

origin, for the rose tint had never faded 
from her friend's face. 

She stood watching the fair woman walk 
down the long line of galleries with the 
grace and majesty which queens are some- 
times supposed to possess. Her little ones 
ran to meet her. Two of them clung about 
her white skirts, the third she took from its 
nurse and with a thousand endearments 
bore it along in her own fond, encircling 
arms. Though, as everybody well kne\ 
the doctor had forbidden her to lift so much 
as a pin ! 

"Are you going bathing?" asked Robert~^\ 
of Mrs. Pontellier. It was not so much a 
question as a reminder. 

"Oh, no," she answered, with a tone of 
indecision. "I'm tired; I think not." Her 
glance wandered from his face away toward 
the Gulf, whose sonorous murmur reached 
her like a loving but imperative entreaty. 

"Oh, come!" he insisted. "You mustn't 
miss your bath. Come on. The water \ 
must be delicious; it will not hurt you. 
Come." 

~- "- *""*-* -J 



THE AWAKENING 



hat that hung on a peg out?ide the door, 
)and put it on her head. They descended 
the steps, and walked away together toward 
the beach. The sun was low in the west 
and the breeze was soft and warm. 



Co 




VI 



Edna PontelliexCiHi4«h , rcrH , rave~t©ld why, 
wishing to go to the b^a^jL^itlL-Rabertrshe 
shou ld in TEe first p lace-have declin£cL_and 
in the second place hav e followed in obedi- 
ence to one of the two contradic£ory__im- 
pulses which i mpelled he r. 

"A certain light^jw as^bj 
dimly withi n he^-^-t he. 
ing~Tfte wav^^foxhida- it . 

FTnat early period it served but to be- 
wilder her. It moved her to dreams, to 
thoughtfulness, to the shadowy anguish 
which had overcome her the midnight when 
she had abandoned herself to tears. 
/in short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning^ 
to* realize her position in the universe as a / 
human being, and to recognize her relations [ 
as an individual to the world within and \^ 
about her. i This may seem like a ponder- f 
ous weight of wisdom to descend upon the 
soul of a young woman of twenty-eight — 
33 



¥r 



34 THE AWAKENING 

perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost 
is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any 
woman. 

But the beginning of things, of a world 
especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, 
chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How 
few of us ever emerge from such beginning! 
How many souls perish in its tumult! 

The voice of the sea is seductive; never 
ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, 
inviting the soul to wander for a spell in 
abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes 
of inward contemplation. 

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. 
The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding 
\\the body in its soft, close embrace. 



VII 



1 



IVIrs. Po ntel lier w as not a woman give n to 
confidences, a characteristichjthejcto^co^n- 
^aryto^Ber nature^ ~TTven as a child she 
had lived her own small life all within her- 
self. At a very early period she had 
apprehended instinctively the dual life — 
that outward existence which conforms, the 
inward life which questions. 

That summer at Grand Isle she began to 
loosen a little the mantle of reserve that had 
always enveloped her. There may have 
been — there must have been — influences, 
both subtle and apparent, working in their 
several ways to induce her to do this; but 
the most obvious was the influence of Adele 
Ratignolle. fThe excessive physical charm 
of the Creole had first attracted her, for 
Edna had a sensuous susceptibility to 
beauty.^ Then the candor of the woman's 
whole existence, which every one might 
read, and which formed so striking a con- 
35 



36 THE AWAKENING 

trast to her own habitual reserve — this 
might have furnished a link. Who can tell 
what metals the gods use in forging the sub- 
tle bond which we call sympathy, which we 
might as well call love. 

The two women went away one morning 
to the beach together, arm in arm, under 
the huge white sunshade. Edna had pre- 
vailed upon Madame Ratignolle to leave 
the children behind, though she could not 
induce her to relinquish a diminutive roll of 
needlework, which Adele begged to be 
allowed to slip into the depths of her pocket. 
In some unaccountable way they had 
escaped from Robert. 

The walk to the beach was no inconsider- 
able one, consisting as it did of a long, 
sandy path, upon which a sporadic and 
tangled growth that bordered it on either 
side made frequent and unexpected inroads. 
There were acres of yellow camomile reach- 
ing out on either hand. Further away still, 
vegetable gardens abounded, with frequent 
small plantations of orange or lemon trees 
intervening. The dark green clusters glis- 
tened from afar in the sun. 



THE AWAKENING 37 

The women were both of goodly height, 
Madame Ratignolle possessing the more 
feminine and matronly figure. The charm 
of Edna Pontellier's physique stole insen- 
sibly upon you. The. lines of her body 
were Jong, clean. aj^_syrnine±rical ; it was 
a body which occasionally fell into splen- 
did poses; there was no suggestion of 
the trim, stereotyped fashion-plate about 
it. A casual and indiscriminating observer, 
in passing, might not cast -a- second, glance 
upon therrfegureT But with more feeling 
and discernment he would have recognized 
the noble beauty of its modeling, and the 
graceful severity of potse and movement, 
which made Edna-.Pontellier different frgm 
.the.crow_d, *~ "*"*" 

She wore a cool muslin that morning — 
white, with a waving vertical line of brown 
running through it ; also a white linen col- 
lar and the big straw hat which she had 
taken from the peg outside the door. The 
hat rested any way on her yellow-brown 
hair, th at waved_JL_little, "was" heavy, and 
clung doseto her head. ~~~ * 

Madame Ratignolle, more careful of her 



^r 



\ K v 



.ysr* 



38 THE AWAKENING 

complexion, had twined a gauze veil about 
her head. She wore dogskin gloves, with 
gauntlets that protected her wrists. She 
was dressed in jpjar£_whit£ > „with a fluffiness 
of ruffles that became her. The draperies 
and fluttering things which she wore suited 
her rich, luxuriant beauty as a greater sever- 
ity of line could not have done. 

There were a number of bath-houses 
along the beach, of rough but solid con- 
struction, built with small, protecting gal- 
leries facing the water. Each house con- 
sisted of two compartments, and each 
family at Lebrun's possessed a compart- 
ment for itself, fitted out with all the essen- 
tial paraphernalia of the bath and whatever 
other conveniences the owners might desire. 
The two women had no intention of bath- 
ing; they had just strolled down to the 
beach for a walk and to be alone and near 
the water. The Pontellier and Ratignolle 
compartments adjoined one another under 
the same roof. 

Mrs. Pontellier had brought down her 
key through force of habit. Unlocking the 
door of her bath-room she went inside, and 



THE AWAKENING 39 

soon emerged, bringing a rug, which she 
spread upon the floor of the gallery, and 
two huge hair pillows covered with crash, 
which she placed against the front of the 
building. 

The two seated themselves there in the 
shade of the porch, side by side, with their 
backs against the pillows and their feet ex- 
tended. Madame Ratignolle removed her 
veil, wiped her face with a rather delicate 
handkerchief, and fanned herself with the 
fan which she always carried suspended 
somewhere about her person by a long, 
narrow ribbon. Edna removed her collar 
and opened her dress at the throat. 
She took the fan from Madame Ratig- 
nolle and began to fan both herself and 
her companion. It was very warm, and 
for a while they did nothing but exchange 
remarks about the heat, the sun, the glare. 
But there was a breeze blowing, a choppy, 
stiff wind that whipped the water into froth. 
It fluttered the skirts of the two women and 
kept them for a while engaged in adjusting, 
readjusting, tucking in, securing hair-pins 
and hat-pins. A few persons were sport- 



c 



40 THE AWAKENING 

ing some distance away in the water. The 
beach was very still of human sound at that 
hour. The lady in black was reading her 
morning devotions on the porch of a neigh- 
boring bath-house. Two young lovers were 
exchanging their hearts' yearnings beneath 
the children's tent, which they had found 
unoccupied. 
' I Edna Pontell ier, c asting her eyes about, 




The day was clear and carried the gaze out 
as far as the blue sky went ; there were a few 
white clouds suspended idly over the hori- 
zon. A lateen sail was visible in the direc- 
tion of Cat Island, and others to the south 
seemed almost motionless in the far dis- 
tance. 

"Of whom — ofwhatare you thinki ng?" 
asked Adele of her companion, whose coun- 
tenance she had been watching with a little 
amused attention, arrested by the absorbed 
expression which seemed to have seized 
and fixed every feature into a statuesque 
repose. 

"Nothing," returned Mrs. Pontellier, 
with a start, adding at once: "How stupid! 



THE AWAKENING 41 

But it seems to me it is the reply we make 
instinctively to such a question. Let me 
see," she went on, throwing back her head 
and narrowing her fine eyes till they shone 
like two vivid points of light. "Let me see. 
I was really not conscious of thinking of 
anything; but perhaps I can retrace my 
thoughts." 

"Oh! never mind!" laughed Madame 
Ratignolle. "I am not quite so exacting. 
I will let you off this time. It is really too 
hot to think, especially to think about 
thinking." 

"But for the fun of it," persisted Edna. 
"First of all, the sight of the water stretch- 
ing so far away, those motionless sailsi 
against the blue sky, made a delicious pic-' 
ture that I just wanted to sit and look at. 
The hot wind beating in my face made me 
think — without any connection that I can 
trace — of a summer day in Kentucky, of a 
meadow that seemed as big as the ocean to 
the very little girl walking through the 
grass, which was higher than her waist. 
She threw cut her arms as if swimming 
when she walked, beating the tall grass as 



42 THE AWAKENING 

one strikes out in the water. Oh, I see the 
connection now!" 

"Where were you going that day in Ken- 
tucky, walking through the grass?" 

"I don't remember now. I was just 
walking diagonally across a big field. My 
sun-bonnet obstructed the view. I could 
see only the stretch of green before me, and 
I felt as if I must walk on forever, without 
coming to the end of it. I don't remem- 
ber whether I was frightened or pleased. I 
must have been entertained. 

"Likely as not it was Sunday," she 
laughed; "and I was running away from 
prayers, from the Presbyterian service, read 
in a spirit of gloom by my father that chills 
me yet to think of." 

"And haye^£]i_beenjHLmjin^^ 
prayprg — evef — siaee, ma chere?" asked 
Madame Ratignolle, amused. 

"No! oh, noj," Edna hastened to say. 
"I was a little unthinking child in those 
days, just following a misleading impulse 
without question. On the contrary, dur- 
ing one period of my life religion took a 
firm hold upon me ; after I was twelve and 



THE AWAKENING 43 

until — until — why, I suppose until now, 
though I never thought much about it — 
just driven along by habit. But do you 
know," she broke off, turning her quick 
eyes upon Madame Ratignolle and leaning 
forward a little so as to bring her face quite 
close to that of her companion, " sometimes 
I fpfL-tkjg gnjr mier a s if I were walking 
thro ugh the gree n meadow" again ; lrtty*^ / 
aimles sly, unthinking and unguided." 

Madame Ratignolle laid her hand over 
that of Mrs. Pontellier, which was near her. 
Seeing that the hand was not withdrawn, 
she clasped it firmly and warmly. She even 
stroked it a little, fondly, with the other 
hand, murmuring in an undertone, " Pauvre 
chirie." 

W The action was at first a little confusing 
to Edna, but she soon lent herself readily 
to the Creole's gentle caress. She was not / 
accustomed to an outward and spoken ex- 
pression of affec tion, eit her in herself or_ in 
Others. She and her younger sister, Janet, 
had quarreled a good deal through force of 
unfortunate habit. Her older sister, Mar- 
garet, was matronly and dignified, probably 




44 THE AWAKENING 

from having assumed matronly and house- 

ifely responsibilities too early in life, their 

W A'i mother having died when they were quite 

j^ V s ) young. Margaret was not effusive ; she was 

rC^ ^A UVpractical. Edna had had an occasional girl 

\ fy /V ^friend, but whether accidentally or not, they 

\0 seemed to have been all of one type — the 

% "iflf rrntnin^4 She never realized that the 

reserve of her own character had much, 

perhaps everything, to do with this. Her 

most intimate friend at school had been one 

of rather exceptional intellectual gifts, who 

wrote fine-sounding essays, which Edna 

admired and strove to imitate ; and with her 

she talked and glowed over the English 

classics, and sometimes held religious and 

political controversies. 

Edna often wondered at one propensity 
which sometimes had inwardly disturbed her 
without causing any outward show or mani- 
festation on her part. At a very early 
age- — perhaps it was when she traversed the 
ocean of wavinggrass — she remembered that 
she had been passionately enamored .of a dig- 
nified and sad-eyed cavalry officer who vis- 
ited her father in Kentucky. She could 



THE AWAKENING 



45 



not leave his presence when he was there, 
nor remove her eyes from his face, which 
was something like Napoleon's, with a lock 
of black hair falling across the forehead. 
But the cavalry officer melted imperceptibly 
out of her existence. 

At another time her affections were 
deeply engaged by a young gentleman who 
visited a lady on a neighboring plantation. 
It was after they went to Mississippi to live. 
The_y_oung man wasen^a^eJL^Jbe_married_ 
to the young lady, and they sometimes 
calledjujppn Margaret, driving over of after- 
noons in a buggy. Edna was a little miss, 
just merging into her teens; and the realiza- 
tion that she herself was nothing, nothing, 
nothing to the engaged young man was a 
bitter affliction to her. But he, too, went 
the way of dreams. 

j She was a grown young woman when she 
^was overtaken by what she supposed to be 
the climax of her fate. It was when the 
face and figure of a great tragedian began to 
haunt her imagination and stir her senses. 
The persistence of the infatuation lent it an 
aspect of genuineness. The hopelessness 




46 THE AWAKENING 

of it colored it with the lofty tones of a 
great passion. 

The picture of the tragedian stood en- 
framed upon her desk. Any one may pos- 
sess the portrait of a tragedian without 
exciting suspicion or comment. (This was 
a sinister reflection which she cherished.) 
In the presence of others she expressed 
admiration for his exalted gifts, as she 
handed the photograph around and dwelt 
upon the fidelity of the likeness. When 
alone she sometimes picked it up and kissed 
the cold glass passionately. 
FBKit^-r jiarriage to Le^ c£^Pc^tellier_was 
purely an accident, in this respect resem- 
bling many other marriages which masquer- 
ade as the decrees of Fate. It was in the 
midst of her secret great passion that she 
met him. He fell in love, as men are in 
the habit of doing, and pressed his suit with 
an earnestness and an ardor which left noth- 
ing to be desired. He pleased her; his 
absolute devotion flattered her. She 
Jan ejed there was a sympathy of th ought 
-aacLiaste between thejoi,_in_which fancy she 
was mistakenTT Add to this tKe~~ violent 



THE AWAKENING 47 

opposition of her father and her sister Mar- 
garet to her marriage with a Catholic, and 
we need seek no further for the motives 
which led her to accept Monsieur Pontellier 
for her husband. J 

The acme of bliss, which would have been 
a marriage with the tragedian, was not for 
her in this world. /As the devoted wife of 
a man who worshiped her, she felt she 
would take her place with a certain dignity 
in the world of reality, closing the portals 
forever behind her upon the realm of 
romance and dreams.n 

But it was not long before the tragedian 
had gone to join the cavalry officer and the 
engaged young man and a few others ; and 
Edna found herself face to face with the 
realities. She grew fond of her-liusband r ^ ' 
realizing with some unaccountable satisfac- 
tion that no trace of passion or- excessive 
and fictitious warmth colored her affection, 
thefeBy~threatehing its dissolution. 

She was fond of her children in an 
uneven, impulsive way. She would some- 
times gather them passionately to her heart ; 
she would sometimes forget them. The 



48 THE AWAKENING 

year before they had spent part of the sum- 
mer with their grandmother Pontellier in 
Iberville. Feeling secure regarding their 
happiness and welfare, she did not miss 
them except with an occasional intense 
longing. Their absence was a sort of re- 
lief, though she did not admit this, even to 
herself. It seemed to free her of a respon- 
sibility which she had blindly assumed and 
for which Fate had not fitted her. 

Edna did not reveal so much as all this 
to Madame Ratignolle that summer day 
when they sat with faces turned to the sea. 
But a good part of it escaped her. She had 
put her head down on Madame Ratignolle's 
shoulder. She was flushed and felt intoxi- 
cated with the sound of her own voice and 
the unaccustomed taste of candor. It mud- 
dled her like wine, or like a first breath of 
freedom. 

There was the sound of approaching 
voices. It was Robert, surrounded by a 
troop of children, searching for them. The 
two little Pontelliers were with him, and he 
carried Madame Ratignolle's little girl in his 
arms. There were other children beside, 



THE AWAKENING 49 

and two nurse-maids followed, looking dis- 
agreeable and resigned. 

The women at once rose and began to 
shake out their draperies and relax their 
muscles. Mrs. Pontellier threw the cush- 
ions and rug into the bath-house. The 
children all scampered off to the awning, 
and they stood there in a line, gazing upon 
the intruding lovers, still exchanging their 
vows and sighs. The lovers got up, with 
only a silent protest, and walked slowly 
away somewhere else. 

The children possessed themselves of the 
tent, and Mrs. Pontellier went over to join 
them. 

Madame Ratignolle begged Robert to X \ 
accompany her to the house; she com- / 
plained of cramp in her limbs and stiffness / 
of the joints. She leaned draggingly upon I 
his arm as they walked. s 



1 



VIII 

f "Do me a favor, Robert," spoke the 
pretty woman at his side, almost as soon 
as she and Robert had started on their 
slow, homeward way. She looked up in 
his face, leaning on his arm beneath the 
encircling shadow of the umbrella which he 
had lifted. 

"Granted; as many as you like," he 
returned, glancing down into her eyes that 
were full of thoughtfulness and some specu- 
lation. 
/*"" "I only ask for one; let Mrs. Pontellier 
s^lone." 

"Tiens/" he exclaimed, with a sudden, 
boyish laugh. " Voild que Madame Ratig- 
nolle est jalouse 7" 

"Nonsense! I'm in earnest; I mean what 
I say. Let Mrs. Pontellier alone." 

"Why?" he asked; himself growing seri- 
ous at his companion's solicitation. 

"She is not one of us; she is not like us. 
50 fc 



THE AWAKENING 51 

She might make the unfortunate blunder of 
taking you seriously." 

His face flushed with annoyance, and 
taking off his soft hat he began to beat it 
impatiently against his leg as he walked. 
"Why shouldn't she take me seriously?" he 
demanded sharply. "Am I a comedian, a 
clown, a jack-in-the-box? Why shouldn't 
she? You Creoles! I have no patience 
with you ! Am I always to be regarded as a 
feature of an amusing programme? I hope 
Mrs. Pontellier does take me seriously. I 
hope she has discernment enough to find in 
me something besides the blagueur. If I 
thought there was any doubt — ' ' 

"Oh, enough, Robert!" she broke into 
his heated outburst. "You are not think- 
ing of what you are saying. You speak 
with about as little reflection as we might 
expect from one of those children down 
there playing in the sand. If your atten- 
tions to any married women here were ever 
offered with any intention of being convinc- 
ing, you would not be the gentleman we all 
know you to be, and you would be unfit to 



52 THE AWAKENING 

associate with the wives and daughters of 
the people who trust you." 

Madame Ratignolle had spoken what she 
believed to be the law and the gospel. The 
young man shrugged his shoulders impa- 
tiently. 

"Oh! well! That isn't it," slamming 
his hat down vehemently upon his head. 
"You ought to feel that such things are not 
flattering to say to a fellow." 

"Should our whole intercourse consist of 
an exchange of compliments? Ma foi!" 

"It isn't pleasant to have a woman tell 
you — " he went on, unheedingly, but break- 
ing off suddenly: "Now if I were like 
Arobin — you remember Alcee Arobin and 
that story of the consul's wife at Biloxi?" 
And he related the story of Alcee Arobin 
and the consul's wife; and another about 
the tenor of the French Opera, who received 
letters which should never have been writ- 
ten; and still other stories, grave and gay, 
till Mrs. Pontellier and her possible propen- 
sity for taking young men seriously was 
apparently forgotten. 

Madame Ratignolle, when they had re- 



THE AWAKENING 53 

gained her cottage, went in to take the 
hour's rest which she considered helpful. 
Before leaving her, Robert begged her par- 
don for the impatience — he called it rude- 
ness — with which he had received her 
well-meant caution. 

"You made one mistake, Adele, " he 
said, with alight smile; "t here is n o earthly 
possibility of Mrs. Pontellier j^ve£]3afing 
m e seriously . You shouldJb a KCjvarned m e 
against^ Jak jng myjgif ^seriousl y. Your 
advice might then have carried some weight 
and given me subject for some reflection. 
Au revoir. But you look tired," he added, 
solicitously. "Would you like a cup of 
bouillon? Shall I stir you a toddy? Let me 
"mix you a toddy with a drop of Angostura. ' ' 

She acceded to the suggestion of bouillon, 
which was grateful and acceptable. He 
went himself to the kitchen, which was a 
building apart from the cottages and lying 
to the rear of the house. And he himself 
brought her the golden-brown bouillon, in a 
dainty Sevres cup, with a flaky cracker or 
two on the saucer. 

She thrust a bare, white arm from the 



54 THE AWAKENING 

curtain which shielded her open door, and 
received the cup from his hands. She told 
him he was a bon garcon, and she meant it. 
Robert thanked her and turned away toward 
"the house." 

The lovers were just entering the grounds 
of the pension. They were leaning toward 
each other as the water-oaks bent from the 
sea. There was not a particle of earth 
beneath their feet. Their heads might have 
been turned upside-down, so absolutely 
did they tread upon blue ether. The lady 
in black, creeping behind them, looked a 
trifle paler and more jaded than usual. 
There was no sign of Mrs. Pontellier and 
the children. Robert scanned the distance 
for any such apparition. They would 
doubtless remain away till the dinner hour. 
[The voting 1 -man ascended to his mother's 
room-* It was situated at the top of the 
house, made up of odd angles and a queer, 
sloping ceiling. Two broad dormer win- 
dows looked out toward the Gulf, and as 
far across it as a man's eye might reach. 
The furnishings of the room were light, 
cool, and practical. 



THE AWAKENING 55 

Madajng ^jLebrun was busily, en gaged at 
the sewing-mach ine. A little black girl sat 
on the floor, and with her hands worked 
the treadle of the machine. The Qteole 
woman does^not^ak^^jmj^ 
may be avoided of imperiling her health. 

Robert went over and seated himself on 
the broad sill of one of the dormer windows. 
He took a book from his pocket and be- 
gan energetically to read it, judging by the 
precision and frequency with which he 
turned the leaves. The sewing-machine 
made a resounding clatter in the room ; it 
was of a ponderous, by-gone make. In 
the lulls, Robert and his mother exchanged 
bits of desultory conversation. 

"Where is Mrs. Pontellier?" 

"Down at the beach with the children." 

"I promised to lend her the Goncourt. 
Don't forget to take it down when you go; 
it's there on the bookshelf over the small 
table." Clatter, clatter, clatter, bang! for 
the next five or eight minutes. 

"Where is Victor going with the rock- 
away?" 

"The rockaway? Victor?" 



56 THE AWAKENING 

"Yes; down there in front. He seems to 
be getting ready to drive away somewhere." 

"Call him." Clatter, clatter! 

Robert uttered a shrill, piercing whistle 
which might have been heard back at the 
wharf. 

"He won't look up." 

Madame Lebrun flew to the window. 
She called "Victor!" She waved a hand- 
kerchief and called again. The young fel- 
low below got into the vehicle and started 
the horse off at a gallop. 

Madame Lebrun went back to the ma- 
chine, crimson with annoyance. Victor 
was the younger son and brother — a tete 
montie^ with a temper which invited violence 
and a will which no ax could break. 

"Whenever you say the word I'm ready 
to thrash any amount of reason into him 
that he's able to hold." 

"If your father had only lived!" Clat- 
ter, clatter, clatter, clatter, bang! It was a 
fixed belief with Madame Lebrun that the 
conduct of the universe and all things per- 
taining thereto would have been manifestly 
of a more intelligent and higher order had 



THE AWAKENING 57 

not Monsieur Lebrun been removed to other 
spheres during the early years of their mar- 
ried life. 

"What do you hear from Montel?" 
Montel was a middle-aged gentleman whose 
vain ambition and desire for the past twenty 
years had been to fill the void which Mon- 
sieur Lebrun's taking off had left in the 
Lebrun household. Clatter, clatter, bang, 
clatter ! 

"I have a letter somewhere," looking in 
the machine drawer and finding the letter 
in the bottom of the work-basket. "He 
says to tell you he will be in Vera Cruz the 
beginning of next month" — clatter, clat- 
ter! — "and if you still have the intention of 
joining him" — bang! clatter, clatter, bang! 

"Why didn't you tell me so before, 
mother? You know I wanted — " Clatter, 
clatter, clatter! 

"Do you see Mrs. Pontellier starting back 
with the children? She will be in late to 
luncheon again. She never starts to get 
ready for luncheon till the last minute." 
Clatter, clatter! "Where are you going?" 

"Where did you say the Goncourt was?" 






IX 

Every light in the hall was ablaze ; every 
lamp turned as high as it could be without 
smoking the chimney or threatening explo- 
sion. The lamps were fixed at intervals 
against the wall, encircling the whole room. 
Some one had gathered orange and lemon 
branches, and with these fashioned graceful 
festoons between. The dark green of the 
branches stood out and glistened against 
the white muslin curtains which draped the 
windows, and which puffed, floated, and 
flapped at the capricious will of a stiff 
breeze that swept up from the Gulf. 

It was Saturday night a few weeks- after 
the intimate conversation held between 
Robert and Madame Ratignolle on their 
way from the beach. An unusual number 
of husbands, fathers, and friends had come 
down to stay over Sunday; and they were 
being suitably entertained by their families, 
with the material help of Madame Lebrun. 
58 



THE AWAKENING 59 

The dining tables had all been removed to 
one end of the hall, and the chairs ranged 
about in rows and in clusters. Each little 
family group had had its say and exchanged 
its domestic gossip earlier in the evening. 
There was now an apparent disposition to 
relax; to widen the circle of confidences and 
give a more general tone to the conversation. 

Many of the children had been permitted 
to sit up beyond their usual bedtime. A 
small band of them were lying on their stom- 
achs on the floor looking at the colored sheets 
of the comic papers which Mr. Pontellier had 
brought down. The little Pontellier boys 
were permitting them to do so, and making 
their authority felt. 

Music, dancing, and a recitation or two 
were the entertainments furnished, or 
rather, offered. But there was nothing 
systematic about the programme, no appear- 
ance of prearrangement nor even premedita- 
tion. 

At an early hour in the evening the Far- 
ival twins were prevailed upon to play the 
piano. They were girls of fourteen, always 
clad in the Virgin's colors, blue and white, 



60 THE AWAKENING 

having been dedicated to the Blessed Vir- 
gin at their baptism. They played a duet 
from "Zampa, " and at the earnest solicita- 
tion of every one present followed it with the 
overture to "The Poet and the Peasant." 

"Allez vous-en! Sapristi!" shrieked the 
parrot outside the door. He was the only 
being present who possessed sufficient can- 
dor to admit that he was not listening 
to these gracious performances for the 
first time that summer. Old Monsieur 
Farival, grandfather of the twins, grew 
indignant over the interruption, and insisted 
upon having the bird removed and con- 
signed to regions of darkness. Victor 
Lebrun objected; and his decrees were as 
immutable as those of Fate. The parrot 
fortunately offered no further interruption 
to the entertainment, the whole venom of 
his nature apparently having been cherished 
up and hurled against the twins in that one 
impetuous outburst. 

Later a young brother and sister gave 
recitations, which every one present had 
heard many times at winter evening enter- 
tainments in the city. 



THE AWAKENING 61 

A little girl performed a skirt dance in 
the center of the floor. The mother played 
her accompaniments and at the same time 
watched her daughter with greedy admira- 
tion and nervous apprehension. She need 
have had no apprehension. The child was 
mistress of the situation. She had been 
properly dressed for the occasion in black 
tulle and black silk tights. Her little neck 
and arms were bare, and her hair, artificially 
crimped, stood out like fluffy black plumes 
over her head. Her poses were full of 
grace, and her little black-shod toes twinkled 
as they shot out and upward with a rapidity 
and suddenness which were bewildering. 

But there was no reason why every one 
should not dance. Madame Ratignolle 
could not, so it was she who gaily con- 
sented to play for the others. She played 
very well, keeping excellent waltz time and 
infusing an expression into the strains which 
was indeed inspiring. She was keeping up 
her music on account of the children, she 
said; because she and her husband both 
considered it a means of brightening the 
home and making it attractive. 



62 THE AWAKENING 

Almost every one danced but the twins, 
who could not be induced to separate dur- 
ing the brief period when one or the other 
should be whirling around the room in the 
arms of a man. They might have danced 
together, but they did not think of it. 

The children were sent to bed. Some 
went submissively; others with shrieks and 
protests as they were dragged away. They 
had been permitted to sit up till after the 
ice-cream, which naturalry marked the limit 
of human indulgence. 

The ice-cream was passed around with 
cake — gold and silver cake arranged on plat- 
ters in alternate slices; it had been made 
and frozen during the afternoon back of the 
kitchen by two black women, under the 
supervision of Victor. It was pronounced 
a great success — excellent if it had only 
contained a little less vanilla or a little 
more sugar, if it had been frozen a degree 
harder, and if the salt might have been kept 
out of portions of it. Victor was proud of 
his achievement, and went about recom- 
mending it and urging every one to partake 
of it to excess. 



THE AWAKENING 63 

After Mrs. Pontellier had danced twice 
with her husband, once with Robert, and 
once with Monsieur Ratignolle, who was 
thin and tall and swayed like a reed in the 
wind when he danced, she went out on 
the gallery and _seated herselt on"' the low 
window_- s,pl '"^ifirfi l ,.i g ^ e co m m a nded a v iew 
of a ll that w e nt on in the hall, and cou ld 
look out toward t i\j,p C^lf, There was a 
soft effulgence in the east. The moon was 
coming up, and its mystic shimmer was 
casting a million lights across th e_djstant. 
restless water. 

"Would^^^H^TcT hear Mademoiselle 
Reisz play?" asked Robert, coming out on 
the porch where she was. Of course Edna 
would like to hear Mademoiselle Reisz play; 
but she feared it would be useless to entreat 
her. 

"I'll ask her," he said. "I'll tell her 
that you want to hear her. She likes you. 
She will come." He turned and hurried 
away to one of the far cottages, where 
Mademoiselle Reisz was shuffling away. 
She was dragging a chair in and out of her 
room, and at intervals objecting to the cry- 



64 THE AWAKENING 

ing of a baby, which a nurse in the adjoin- 
ing cottage was endeavoring to put to sleep. 
She was a disagreeable little woman, no 
longer young, who had quarreled with 
almost every one, owing to a temper which 
was self-assertive and a disposition to tram- 
ple upon the rights of others. Robert 
prevailed upon her without any too great 
difficulty. 

She entered the hall with him during a 
lull in the dance. She made an awkward, 
imperious little bow as she went in. She 
was a homely woman, with a small wea- 
zened face and body and eyes that glowed. 
She had absolutely no taste in dress, and 
wore a batch of rusty black lace with a 
bunch of artificial violets pinned to the side 
of her hair. 

"Ask Mrs. Pontellier what she would like 
to hear me play," she requested of Robert. 
She sat perfectly still before the piano, not 
touching the keys, while Robert carried her 
message to Edna at the window. A gen- 
eral air of surprise and genuine satisfaction 
fell upon every one as they saw the pianist 
enter. There was a settling down, and a 



THE AWAKENING 65 

prevailing air of expectancy everywhere. 
Edna was a trifle embarrassed at being thus 
signaled out for the imperious little wom- 
an's favor. She would not dare to choose, 
and begged that Mademoiselle Reisz would 
please herself in her selections. 
^_^E^na was what s he hersel f called ver„y 
-£©«4— ef—aiusic~ Musical strains, well ren- / 
dered, had a way of evoking pictures in her 
mind. She sometimes liked to sit in the 
room of mornings when Madame Ratig- 
nolle played or practiced. One piece which 
that lady played Edna had entitled "Soli- 
tude." It was a short, plaintive, minor 
strain. The name of the piece was some- 
thing else, but she called it "Solitude." 
When she ^eard^ it ( .there _came before her 
ifria^nation th e figure of a ma n standing ^S 
beside a^esolate rock on the seashore. ' He 
was naked r H[fs atfifnrip was one of Jiope- 
less resignation as he looked toward a dis- 
tant bird winging its flight away from him. 
Another piece called to her mind a dainty 
young woman clad in an Empire gown, tak- 
ing mincing dancing steps as she came down 
a long avenue between tall hedges. Again, 



66 THE AWAKENING 

another reminded her of children at play, 
and still another of nothing on earth but a 
demure lady stroking a cat. 

The very first chords which Mademoiselle 
Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen 
tremor down Mrs. Pontellier's spinal column. 
It was not the first time she^ad heard an 
artist at the piano. Perhaps it was the first 
time she was ready, perhaps the first time 
her being was tempered to take an impress 
of the abiding truth. 

She waited for the material pictures which 

she thought would gather and blaze before 

her imagination. She waited in vain. She 

saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of 

-V~* — longing, or of despair. But the very pas- 

sions themselves were aroused within her 

sdul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves 

. /daily beat upon her splendid body. She 

*^ trembled, she was choking, and the tears 

blinded her. 

Mademoiselle had finished. She arose, 
and bowing her stiff, lofty bow, she went 
away, stopping for neither thanks nor ap- 
plause. As she passed along the gallery 
she patted Edna upon the shoulder. 



THE AWAKENING 67 

"Well, how did you like my music?" she 
asked. The young woman was unable to 
answer; she pressed the hand of the pian- 
ist convulsively. Mademoiselle Reisz per- 
ceived her agitation and even her tears. 
She patted her again upon the shoulder as 
she said : T 

'^You are the on ly one w orth playing for. 
Those others"? Bah!" and she wenT*shuf-~ 
fling and sidling on down the gallery toward 
her room. 

But she was mistaken about "those 
others." Her playing had aroused a fever 
of enthusiasm. "What passion!" "What 
an artist!" "I have always^ said no one 
could play Chopin like Mademoiselle 
Reisz!" "That last prelude! Bon Dieu! 
It shakes a man!" 

It was growing late, and there was a 
general disposition to disband. But some 
one, perhaps it was Robert, thought of a 
bath at that mystic hour and under that 
mystic moon. 



X 



* 



At all events Robert proposed it, and 
there was not a dissenting voice. There 
was not one but was ready to follow when 
he led the way. He did not lead the way, 
however, he directed the way; and he 
himself loitered behind with the lovers, who 
had betrayed a disposition to linger and 
hold themselves apart. He walked between 
them, whether with malicious or mischiev- 
ous intent was not wholly clear, even to 
himself. 

The Pontelliers and Ratignolles walked 
ahead ; the women leaning upon the arms 
of their husbands. Edna could hear 
Robert's voice behind them, and could 
sometimes hear what he said. She won- 
dered why he did not join them. It was 
unlike him not to. Of late he had some- 
times held away from her for an entire day, 
redoubling his devotion upon the next and 
68 



THE AWAKENING 69 

the next, as though to make up for hours 
that had been lost. She missed him the 
days when some pretext served foTalce'^Ktm 
away from her, just as one misses the sun 
on a cloudy day without having thought 
much about the sun when it was shining. \y 

The people walked in little groups toward 
the beach. They talked and laughed ; some 
of them sang. There was a band playing 
down at Klein's hotel, and the strains 
reached them faintly, tempered by the dis- 
tance. There were gt rnngr i irn i ' 1 ' l r 
abroad — a tangle of the sea smell and of 
weeds and damp, new-plowed earth, min- 
gled with the heavy perfume of a field of 
white blossoms somewhere near. But the 
night sat lightly upon the sea and the land. 
There was no weight of darkness; there 
were no shadows. The white light of the 
moon had iallen upon the world like 
the mystery and the softness of sleep. 

Most of them walked into the water as 
though into a native element. The sea was 
quiet now, and swelled lazily in broad bil- 
lows that melted into one another and did 
not break except upon the beach in little 



70 THE AWAKENING 

foamy crests that coiled back like slow, 
white serpents. 

Edna had attempted all summer to learn 
to swim. She had received instructions 
from both the men and women ; in some 
instances from the children. Robert had 
pursued a system of lessons almost daily; 
and he was nearly at the point of discour- 
agement in realizing the futility of his 
efforts. A certain ungovernable dread hung 
about her when in the water, unless there 
V^was a hand near by that might reach out 
and reassure her. 

But that night she was like the little tot- 
„ terming, stumbling, clutching child, who of a 
Sudden realizes its powers, and walks for the 
first time alone, boldly and with over-confi- 
dence. She could have shouted for joy. 
She did shout for joy, as with a sweeping 
stroke or two she lifted her body to the sur- 
face of the water. 

A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if 
some power of significant imnor^Jaa d fyeen 
given "Tier to control the working of her 
body ana her soul. She grew daring and 
reckless, overestimating her strength. She 



THE AWAKENING 71 

wanted to swim far out, where no woman 
had swum before. 

Her unlooked-for achievement was the 
subject of wonder, applause, and admiration. 
Each one congratulated himself that his 
special teachings had accomplished this 
desired end. 

"How easy it is!" she thought. "It is 
nothing," she said aloud; "why did I not 
discover before that it was nothing. Think 
of the time I have lost splashing about like a 
baby!" She would not join the groups in 
their sports and bouts, but intoxicated with 
her newly conquered power, she swam out 
alone. 

$ he turned her face sea wall tr t Frfrthf 1 * ^ ^ 
anSmpressio n of snare ajid •ffglitmki> wtl, ' rh / 
the vast expanse of water, meeting and melt- 
ing with the moonlit sky, conveyed to her 
excited fancy. As she swam she seemed to 
be reaching out for the unlimited in which 
to lose herself. 

Once she turned and looked toward the 
shore, toward the people she had left there. 
She had not gone any great distance — that 
is, what would have been a great distance 



72 THE AWAKENING 

for an experienced swimmer. But to her 
unaccustomed vision the stretch of water 
behind her assumed the aspect of a barrier 
which her unaided strength would never be 
able to overcome. 

vt&> A quick vision of death smote her soul, . 

-v jb ' — _ " 

yP »>4nd for a second of Jtime appalled and en* 

f rj*" feebled her senses. But by an effort she 

^ rallied her staggering faculties and managed 

to regain the land. 

She made no mention of her encounter 

with death and her flash of terror, except to 

say to her husband, "I thought I should 

have perished out there alone." 

"You were not so very far, my dear; I 

was watching you," he told her. 

Edna went at once to the bath-house, and 

she had put on her dry clothes and was 

ready to return home before the others had 

left the water. She started to walk away 

alone. They all called to her and shouted 

to her. She waved a dissenting hand, 

and went on, paying no further heed to 

their renewed cries which sought to detain 

her. 

"Sometimes I am tempted to think that 



THE AWAKENING 73 

Mrs. Pontellier fecaprici ous, ' ' said Madame 
Lebrun, \vlTo~was amusing herself immensely 
and feared that Edna's abrupt departure 
might put an end to the pleasure. 

"I know she is," assented Mr. Pontel- 
lier; "sometimes, not often." 

Edna had not traversed a quarter of the 
distance on her way home before she was 
overtaken by Robert. 

"Did you think I was afraid?" she asked 
him, without a shade of annoyance. 

"No; I knew you weren't afraid." 

"Then why did you come? Why didn't 
you stay out there with the others?" 

"I never thought of it." 

"Thought of what?" 

"Of anything. What difference does it 
make?" 

"I'm very tired," she uttered, complain- 
ingly. 

"I know you are." 

"You don't know anything about it. 
Why should you know? I never was so 
exhausted in my life. But it isn't unpleas- 
ant. A thousand emotions have swept 
through me to-night. I don't comprehend 



74 THE AWAKENING 

half of them. Don't mind what I'm say- 
ing; I am just thinking aloud. I wonder 
if I shall ever be stirred again as Mademoi- 
selle Reisz's playing moved me to-night. 
I wonder if any night on earth will ever 
again be like this one. It is like a night in 
a dream. The people about me are like 
some uncanny, half-human beings. There 
must be spirits abroad to-night." 

"There are," whispered Robert. "Didn't 
you know this was the twenty-eighth of 
August?" 

"The twenty-eighth of August?" 
"Yes. On the twenty-eighth of August, 
at the hour of midnight, and if the moon 
is shining — the moon must be shining — a 
spirit that has haunted these shores for ages 
rises up from the Gulf. With its own pene- 
trating vision the spirit seeks some one 
mortal .worthy to hold him_ company, 
worthy of being exalted for a few hours 
into realms of the semi-celestials. His 
search has always hitherto been fruitless, 
and he has sunk back, disheartened, into the 
sea. But to-night he found Mrs. Pontellier. 
Perhaps he will never wholly release her 



THE AWAKENING 75 

from the spell. Perhaps she will never 
again suffer a poor, unworthy earthling to 
walk in the shadow of her divine presence." <-*_ 

"Don't banter me," she said, wounded ">0 <^* 
at what appeared to be his flippancy. He *5 

did not mind the entreaty, but the tone 
with its delicate note of pathos was like a 
reproach. He could not explain; he could., 
not tell her tKaTTTe'~Tiiaor _ penetrated her 
mood and unders tood . He said nothing 
except to offer her his arm, for, by her own 
admission, she was exhausted. She had 
been walking alone with her arms hanging 
limp, letting her white skirts trail along the 
dewy path. She took his arm, but she did 
not lean upon it. She let her handTIe Tist- 
lesslyy-^s-JJiaugh-^er thoughts were else- 
where — somewhere in advance of her body, 
and she was striving to overtake them. 

Robert assisted her into the hammock 
which swung from the post before her door 
out to the trunk of a tree. 

"Will you stay out here and wait for 
Mr. Pontellier?" he asked. 

"I'll stay out here. Good-night." 

"Shall I get you a pillow?" 



76 THE AWAKENING 

"There's one here," she said, feeling 
about, for they were in the shadow. 

"It must be soiled; the children have 
been tumbling it about." 

"No matter." And having discovered 
the pillow, she adjusted it beneath her 
head. She extended herself in the ham- 
mock with a deep breath of relief. She was 
not a supercilious or an over-dainty woman. 
She was not much given to reclining in the 
hammock, and when she did so it was with 
no cat-like suggestion of voluptuous ease, 
but with a beneficent repose which seemed 
to invade her whole body. 

"Shall I stay with you till Mr. Pontellier 
comes?" asked Robert, seating himself on 
the outer edge of one of the steps and tak- 
ing hold of the hammock rope which was 
fastened to the post. 

"If you wish. Don't swing the hammock. 
Will you get my white shawl which I left 
on the window-sill over at the house?" 

"Are you chilly?" 

"No; but I shall be presently." 

"Presently?" he laughed. "Do you 



THE AWAKENING 77 

know what time it is? How long are 
you going to stay out here?" 

"I don't know. Will you get the shawl?" 

"Of course I will," he said, rising. He 
went over to the house, walking along the 
grass. She watched his figure pass in and 
out of the strips of moonlight. It was past 
midnight. It was very quiet. 

When he returned with the shawl she 
took it and kept it in her hand. She did 
not put it around her. 

"Did you say I should stay till Mr. Pon- 
tellier came back?" 

"I said you might if you wished to." 

He seated himself again and rolled a cig- 
arette, which he smoked in silence. Neither 
did Mrs. Pontellier speak. No multitude of 
words could have been more significant than 
those moments of silence, or more pregnant 
with the first-felt throbbings of desire. 

When the voices of the bathers were 
heard approaching, Robert said good-night. 
She did not answer him. He thought she 
was asleep. Again she watched his figure 
pass in and out of the strips of moonlight as 
he walked away. 



XI 

"What are you doing out here, Edna? I 
thought I should find you in bed," said her 
husband, when he discovered her lying there. 
He had walked up with Madame Lebrun 
and left her at the house. His wife did not 
reply. 

"Are you asleep?" he asked, bending 
down close to look at her. 

"No." Her eyes gleamed bright and 
intense, with no sleepy shadows, as they 
looked into his. 

"Do you know it is past one o'clock? 
Come on," and he mounted the steps and 
went into their room. 

"Edna!" called Mr. Pontellier from 
within, after a few moments had gone by. 

"Don't wait for me," she answered. He 
thrust his head through the door. 

"You will take cold out there," he said, 
irritably. "What folly is this? Why don't 
you come in?" 

78 



THE AWAKENING 79 

"It isn't cold; I have my shawl." 

"The mosquitoes will devour you." 

"There are no mosquitoes." 

She heard him moving about the room; 
every sound indicating impatience and irri- 
tation. Another time she would have gone 
in at his request. She would, through 
habit, have yielded to his desire; not 
with any sense of submission or obedience / 
to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, ^ 
as we walk, move, sit, stand, go through 
the daily treadmill of the life which has been 
portioned out to us. 

"Edna, dear, are you not coming in 
soon?" he asked again,' this time fondly, 
with a note of entreaty. 

"No; I am going to stay out here." 

"This is more than folly," he blurted out. 
"I can't permit you to stay out there all 
night. You must come in the house in- 
stantly." 

With a writhing motion she settled her- 
self more securely in the hammock. She 
perceived that her will had blazed up, stub- 
born and resistant. She could not at that 
moment have done other than denied and 



80 THE AWAKENING 

resisted. She wondered if her husband had 
ever spoken to her like that before, and if 
she had submitted to his command. Of 
course she had; she remembered that she 
had. But she could not realize why or how 
she should have yielded, feeling as she then 
did/ 

/"Leonce, go to bed," she said. "I mean 
to stay out here. I don't wish to go in, 
and I don't intend to. Don't speak to 
me like that again; I shall not answer 
you. / 

Mr. Pontellier had prepared for bed, but 
he slipped on an extra garment. He 
opened a bottle of wine, of which he kept a 
small and select supply in a buffet of his 
own. He drank a glass of the wine and 
went out on the gallery and offered a glass 
to his wife. She did not wish any. He 
drew up the rocker, hoisted his slippered 
feet on the rail, and proceeded to smoke a 
cigar. He smoked two cigars; then he 
went inside and drank another glass of wine. 
Mrs. Pontellier again declined to accept a 
glass when it was offered to her. Mr. Pon- 
tellier once more seated himself with ele- 






THE AWAKENING 81 

vated feet, and after a reasonable interval 
of time smoked some more cigars. 

Edna began to feel like one who awakens 
gradually out of a dream, a delicious, gro- 
tesque, impossible dream, to feel again the 
realities pressing into her soul. The phys- 
ical need for sleep began to overtake her; 
the exuberance which had sustained and 
exalted her spirit left her helpless and yield- 
ing to the conditions which crowded her in. 

The stillest hour of the night had come, 
the hour before dawn, when the world 
seems to hold its breath. The moon hung 
low, and had turned from silver to copper 
in the sleeping sky. The old owl no longer 
hooted, and the water-oaks had ceased to 
moan as they bent their heads. 

Edna arose, cramped from lying so long 
and still in the hammock. She tottered up 
the steps, clutching feebly at the post before 
passing into the house. 

"Are you coming in, L£once?" she asked, 
turning her face toward her husband. 

"Yes, dear," he answered, with a glance 
following a misty puff of smoke. "Just as 
soon as I have finished my cigar." 



^ 



XII 



She slept but a few hours. They were 
troubled and feverish hours, disturbed with 
dreams that were intangible, that eluded 
her, leaving only an impression upon her 
half-awakened senses of something unat- 
tainable. She was up and dressed in the 
cool of the early morning. The air was 
invigorating and steadied somewhat her 
faculties. However, she was not seeking 
refreshment or help from any' source, either 
. — external or from within. yShe_was blindly" 
\ following whatever impulse moved her, as 
_ if she Tiad placed herself in alien hands for 
direction, and freed her soul of responsi- 
bility. / 

Most of the people at that early hour 
were still in bed and asleep. A few, who 
intended to go over to the Cheniere for 
mass, were moving about. The lovers, who 
had laid their plans the night before, were 
already strolling toward the wharf. The 
82 



THE AWAKENING 83 

lady in black, with her Sunday prayer- 
book, velvet and gold-clasped, and her 
Sunday silver beads, was following them at 
no great distance. Old Monsieur Farival 
was up, and was more than half inclined to 
do anything that suggested itself. He put 
on his big straw hat, and taking his um- 
brella from the stand in the hall, followed 
the lady in black, never overtaking her. 

The little negro girl who worked Madame 
Lebrun's sewing-machine was sweeping the. 
galleries with long, absent-minded strokes 
of the broom. Edna sent her up into the 

"Tell him I am going to the Chentire. 
The boat is ready ; t ell _him ,t ojh u r ry . ' ' 

He had soon joined her. She had never 
sent for him before. She had never asked ij 
for him. She had never seemed to want'"^^ 
him before. She did not appear conscious «J 
that she had done anything unusual in com- 
manding his presence. He was apparently 
equally unconscious of anything extraordi- 
nary in the situation. But his face was 
suffused with a quiet glow when he met 
her. 



84 THE AWAKENING 

They went together back to the kitchen 
to drink coffee. There was no time to wait 
for any nicety of service. They stood out- 
side the window and the cook passed them 
their coffee and a roll, which they drank 
and ate from the window-sill. Edna said it 
tasted good. She had not thought of coffee 
nor of anything. He told her he had often 
noticed that she lacked forethought. 

"Wasn't it enough to think of going to 
the Chiniere and waking you up?" she 
laughed. "Do I have to think of every- 
thing? — as Leonce says when he's in a bad 
humor. I don't blame him; he'd never be 
in a bad humor if it weren't for me." 

They took a short cut across the sands. 
At a distance they could see the curious 
procession moving toward the wharf — the 
lovers, shoulder to shoulder, creeping; the 
lady in black, gaining steadily upon them ; 
old Monsieur Farival, losing ground inch by 
inch, and a young barefooted Spanish girl, 
with a red kerchief on her head and a basket 
on her arm, bringing up the rear. 

Robert knew the girl, and he talked to 
her a little in the boat. No one present 



THE AWAKENING 85 

understood what they said. Her name 
was Mariequita. She had a round, sly, 
piquant face and pretty black eyes. Her 
hands were small, and she kept them folded 
over the handle of her basket. Her feet 
were broad and coarse. She did not strive 
to hide them. Edna looked at her feet, 
and noticed the sand and slime between her 
brown toes. 

Beaudelet grumbled because Mariequita 
was there, taking up so much room. In 
reality he was annoyed at having old Mon- 
sieur Farival, who considered himself the 
better sailor of the two. But he would not 
quarrel with so old a man as Monsieur Far- 
ival, so he quarreled with Mariequita. The 
girl was deprecatory at one moment, appeal- 
ing to Robert. She was saucy the next, 
moving her head up and down, making 
"eyes" at Robert and making "mouths" at 
Beaudelet. 

The lovers were all alone. They saw 
nothing, they heard nothing. The lady in 
black was counting her beads for the third 
time. Old Monsieur Farival talked inces- 
santly of what he knew about handling a 



86 THE AWAKENING 

boat, and of what Beaudelet did not know 
on the same subject. 

Edna liked it all. She looked Mariequita 
up and down, from her ugly brown toes to 
her pretty black eyes, and back again. 

"Why does she look at me like that?" 
inquired the girl of Robert. 

"Maybe she thinks you are pretty. 
Shall I ask her?" 

"No. Is she your sweetheart?" 

"She's a married lady, and has two chil- 
dren." 

"Oh! well! Francisco ran away with 
Sylvano's wife, who had four children. 
They took all his money and one of the 
children and stole his boat." 

"Shut up!" 

"Does she understand?" 

"Oh, hush!" 

"Are those two married over there — lean- 
ing on each other?" 

"Of course not," laughed Robert. 

"Of course not," echoed Mariequita, with 
a serious, confirmatory bob of the head. 

The sun was high up and beginning to 
bite. The swift breeze seemed to Edna 



THE AWAKENING 87 

to bury the sting of it into the pores of her 
face and hands. Robert held his umbrella 
over her. 

As they went cutting sidewise through 
the water, the sails bellied taut, with the 
wind filling and overflowing them. Old 
Monsieur Farival laughed sardonically at 
something as he looked at the sails, and 
Beaudelet swore at the old man under his 
breath. 

Sailing across the bay to the ChenUre 
Caminada, Edna felt as if she were being 
borne away from some anchorage which had 
held her fast, whose chains had been loosen- 
ing — had snapped the night before when the 
mystic spirit was abroad, leaving her free to* 
drift whithersoever she chose to set her sails. 
Robert spoke to her incessantly; he no 
longer noticed Mariequita. The girl had 
shrimps in her bamboo basket. They were 
covered with Spanish moss. She beat the 
moss down impatiently, and muttered to 
herself sullenly. 

"Let us go to Grande Terre to-morrow?" 
said Robert in a low voice. 

"What shall we do there?" 



88 THE AWAKENING 

"Climb up the hill to the old fort and 
look at the little wriggling gold snakes, 
and watch the lizards sun themselves." 

She gazed away to ward Grande Terre and 
thouerht^she woTTTalike to be alone there 



with Robert, in the sun, listening to the 
ocean s roar and watching the slimy lizards 
writhe in and out among the ruins of the old 
fort. 

"And the next day or the next we can 
sail to the Bayou Brulow," he went on. 

"What shall we do there?" 

"Anything — cast bait for fish." 

"No; we'll go back to Grande Terre. 
Let the fish alone." 

"We'll go wherever you like," he said. 
"TlLJiave Tome^conTe~over _ "and help me 
patch and trim my boat. We shall not 
need Beaudelet nor any one. Are you 
afraid of the pirogue?" 

"Oh, no." 

"Then I'll take you some night in the 
pirogue when the moon shines. Maybe 
your Gulf spirit will whisper to you in which 
of these islands the treasures are hidden — 
direct you to the very spot, perhaps." 



THE AWAKENING 89 

"And in a day we should be rich!" she 
laughed. "I'd give it all to you, the 
pirate gold and every bit of treasure we 
could dig up. I think you would know 
how to spend it. Pirate gold isn't a thing 
to be hoarded or utilized. It is something 
to squander and throw to the four winds, 
for the fun of seeing the golden specks 
fly." 

"We'd share it, and scatter it together," 
he said. His face flushed. 

They all went together up to the quaint 
little Gothic church of Our Lady of Lourdes, 
gleaming all brown and yellow with paint 
in the sun's glare. 

Only Beaudelet remained behind, tinker- 
ing at his boat, and Mariequita walked 
away with her basket of shrimps, casting a 
look of childish ill-humor and reproach at 
Robert from the corner of her eye. 



XIII 

A feeling of oppression and drowsiness 
overcame Edna during the service. Her 
head began to ache, and the lights on 
the altar swayed before her eyes. Another 
time she might have made an effort to 
regain her composure; but her one thought 
was to quit the stifling atmosphere of the 
church and reach the open air. She arose, 
climbing over Robert's feet with a muttered 
apology. Old Monsieur Farival, flurried, 
curious, stood up, but upon seeing that 
Robert had followed Mrs. Pontellier, he 
sank back into his seat. He whispered an 
anxious inquiry of the lady in black, who 
did not notice him or reply, but kept her 
eyes fastened upon the pages of her velvet 
prayer-book. 

"I felt giddy and almost overcome," 

Edna said, lifting her hands instinctively to 

her head and pushing her straw hat up from 

her forehead. "I couldn't have stayed 

90 



THE AWAKENING 91 

through the service." They were outside 
in the shadow of the church. Robert was 
full of solicitude. 

"It was folly to have thought of going 
in the first place, let alone staying. Come 
over to Madame Antoine's; you can rest 
there." He took her arm and led her 
away, looking anxiously and continuously 
down into her face. 

How still it was, with only the voice of 
the sea whispering through the reeds that 
grew in the salt-water pools! The long line 
of little gray, weather-beaten houses nestled 
peacefully among the orange trees. It 
must always have been God's day on that 
low, drowsy island, Edna thought. They 
stopped, leaning over a jagged fence made 
of sea-drift, to ask for water. A youth, a 
mild-faced Acadian, was drawing water 
from the cistern, which was nothing more 
than a rusty buoy, with an opening on one 
side, sunk in the ground. The water which 
the youth handed to them in a tin pail was 
not cold to taste, but it was cool to her 
heated face, and it greatly revived and re- 
freshed her. 



92 THE AWAKENING 

Madame Antoine's cot was at the far end 
of the village. She welcomed them with 
all the native hospitality, as she would have 
opened her door to let the sunlight in. 
She was fat, and walked heavily and clum- 
sily across the floor. She could speak no 
English, but when Robert made her under- 
stand that the lady who accompanied him 
was ill and . desired to rest, she was all 
eagerness to make Edna feel at home and 
to dispose of her comfortably. 

The whole place was immaculately clean, 
and the big, four-posted bed, snow-white, 
invited one to repose. It stood in a small 
side room which looked out across a narrow 
grass plot toward the shed, where there 
was a disabled boat lying keel upward. 

Madame Antoine had not gone to mass. 
Her son Tonie had, but she supposed he 
would soon be back, and she invited Robert 
to be seated and wait for him. But he 
went and sat outside the door and smoked. 
Madame Antoine busied herself in the large 
front room preparing dinner. She was 
boiling mullets over a few red coals in the 
huge fireplace. 



THE AWAKENING 93 

Edna, left alone in the little side room, 
loosened heTTlot hes. re moyjng i-hg ^grcater 
part of therm She bathed her face, her 
neck and arms in the basin that stood be- 
tween the windows. She took off her shoes 
and stockings and stretched herself in the 
very center of the high, white bed. How 
luxurious it felt to rest thus in a strange, 
quaint bed, with its sweet country odor of 
laurel lingering about the sheets and mat- 
tress! She stretched her strong limbs that 
ached a little. She ran her fingers through 
her loosened hair for a while. She looked 
at her round arms as she held them straight 
up and rubbed them one after the other, 
observing closely, as if it were something 
she saw for the first time, the fine, firm 
quality and texture of her flesh. She clasped 
her hands easily above her head, and it was 
thus she fell asleep. 

She slept lightly at first, half awake and 
drowsily attentive to the things about her. 
She could hear Madame Antoine's heavy, 
scraping tread as she walked back and forth 
on the sanded floor. Some chickens were 
clucking outside the windows, scratching 



94 THE AWAKENING 

for bits of gravel in the grass. Later she 
half heard the voices of Robert and Tonie 
talking under the shed. She did not stir. 
Even her eyelids rested numb and heavily 
over her sleepy eyes. The voices went 
on — Tonie 's slow, Acadian drawl? Robert's 
quick, soft gi _j5m^ojh-~Er£i]iJi»_j^^ 

stood French imp^fectly^^unless directly 
addresse37*"and the voices were only part of 
the other drowsy, muffled sounds lulling her 
senses. 

When Edna awoke it was with the con- 
viction that she had slept long and soundly. 
The voices were hushed under the shed. 
Madame Antoine's step was no longer to 
be heard in the adjoining room. Even the 
chickens had gone elsewhere to scratch and 
cluck. The mosquito bar was drawn over 
her; the old woman had come in while she 
slept and let down the bar. Edna arose 
quietly from the bed, and looking between 
the curtains of the window, she saw by the 
slanting rays of the sun that the afternoon 
was far advanced. Robert was out there 
under the shed, reclining in the shade 
against the sloping keel of the overturned 



THE AWAKENING 95 

boat. He was reading from a book. Tonie 
was no longer with him. She wondered 
what had become of the rest of the party. 
She peeped out at him two or three times 
as she stood washing herself in the little 
basin between the windows. 

Madame Antoine had laid some coarse, 
clean towels upon a chair, and had placed 
a box of poudre de riz within easy reach. 
Edna dabbed the powder upon her nose and 
cheeks as she looked at herself closely in the 
little distorted mirror which hung on the 
wall above the basin. Her eyes were bright 
and wide awake and her face glowed. 

When she had completed her toilet she 
walked into the adjoining room. She was 
very hungry. No one was there. But 
there was a cloth spread upon the table 
that stood against the wall, and a cover was 
laid for one, with a crusty brown loaf and a 
bottle of wine beside the plate. Edna bit 
a piece from the brown loaf, tearing it with 
her strong, white teeth. She poured some 
of the wine into the glass and drank it 
down. Then she went softly_j2irLof doors, 
and plucking an orange from the low-Kang^ 



96 THE AWAKENING 

ing bough of a tr ee, threw it. a t Robert, 
who'lJiH'liot know she_was jiwake and up." " 

An iTTummation broke over his whole face 
when he saw her and joined her under the 
orange tree. 

"How many years have I slept?" she in- 
quired. "The whole island seems changed. 
A new race of beings must have sprung up, 
leaving only you and me as past relics. 
How many ages ago did Madame Antoine 
and Tonie die? and when did our people 
from Grand Isle disappear from the earth?" 

He familiarly adjusted a ruffle upon her 
shoulder. 

"You have slept precisely one hundred 
years. I was left here to guard your slum- 
bers; and for one hundred years I have 
been out under the shed reading a book. 
The only evil I couldn't prevent was to 
keep a broiled fowl from drying up." 

"If it has turned to stone, still will I eat 
it," said Edna, moving with him into the 
house. "But really, what has become of 
Monsieur Farival and the others?" 

"Gone hours ago. When they found 
that you were sleeping they thought it best 



THE AWAKENING 97 

not to awake you. Any way, I wouldn't 
have let them. What was I here for?" 

"I wonder if Leonce will be uneasy!" 
she speculated, as she seated herself at 
table. 

"Of course not; he knows you are with 
me," Robert replied, as he busied himself 
among sundry pans and covered dishes 
which had been left standing on the hearth. 

"Where are Madame Antoine and her 
son?" asked Edna. 

"Gone to Vespers, and to visit some 
friends, I believe. I am to take you back 
in Tonie's boat whenever you are ready to 
go." 

He stirred the smoldering ashes till the 
broiled fowl began to sizzle afresh. He 
served her with no mean repast, dripping 
the coffee anew and sharing it with her. 
Madame Antoine had cooked little else than 
the mullets, but while Edna slept Robert 
had foraged the island. He was childishly 
gratified to discover her appetite, and to see 
the relish with which she ate the food which 
he had procured for her. 

"Shall we go right away?" she asked, 



98 THE AWAKENING 

after draining her glass and brushing to- 
gether the crumbs of the crusty loaf. 

"The sun isn't as low as it will be in two 
hours," he answered. 

"The sun will be gone in two hours." 

"Well, let it go; who cares!" 

They waited a good while under the 
orange trees, till Madame Antoine came 
back, panting, waddling, with a thousand 
apologies to explain her absence. Tonie 
did not dare to return. He was shy, and 
would not willingly face any woman except 
his mother. 

It was very pleasant to stay there under 
the orange trees, while the sun dipped lower 
and lower, turning the western sky to flam- 
ing copper and gold. The shadows length- 
ened and crept out like stealthy, grotesque 
monsters across the grass. 

Edna and Robert both sat upon the 
ground — that is, he lay upon the ground 
beside her, occasionally picking at the hem 
of her muslin gown. 

Madame Antoine seated her fat body, 
broad and squat, upon a bench beside the 
door. She had been talking all the after- 



THE AWAKENING 99 

noon, and had wound herself up to the 
story-telling pitch. 

And what stories she told them! But 
twice in her life she had left the Chhiiere 
Caminada, and then for the briefest span. 
All her years she had squatted and waddled 
there upon the island, gathering legends of 
the Baratarians and the sea. The night 
came on, with the moon to lighten it. Edna 
could hear the whispering voices of dead 
men and the click of muffled gold. 

When she and Robert stepped into 
Tonie's boat, with the red lateen sail, misty 
spirit forms were prowling in the shadows 
and among the reeds, and upon the water 
were phantom ships, speeding to cover. 



XIV 

The youngest boy, Etienne, had been very 
naughty, Madame Ratignolle said, as she 
delivered him into the hands of his mother. 
He had been unwilling to go to bed and 
had made a scene ; whereupon she had taken 
charge of him and pacified him as well as 
she could. Raoul had been in bed and 
asleep for two hours. 

The youngster was in his long white 
nightgown, that kept tripping him up as 
Madame Ratignolle led him along by the 
hand. With the other chubby fist he 
rubbed his eyes, which were heavy with 
sleep and ill humor. Edna took him in her 
arms, and seating herself in the rocker, 
began to coddle and caress him, calling him 
all manner of tender names, soothing him 
to sleep. 

It was not more than nine o'clock. No 
one had yet gone to bed but the children. 

Leonce had been very uneasy at first, 



THE AWAKENING 101 

Madame Ratignolle said, and had wanted 
to start at once for the Cheniere. But 
Monsieur Farival had assured him that his 
wife was only overcome with sleep and 
fatigue, that Tonie would bring her safely 
back later in the day ; and he had thus been 
dissuaded from crossing the bay. He had 
gone over to Klein's, looking up some 
cotton broker whom he wished to see in 
regard to securities, exchanges, stocks, 
bonds, or something of the sort, Madame 
Ratignolle did not remember what. He 
said he would not remain away late. She 
herself was suffering from heat and oppres- 
sion, she said. She carried a bottle of salts 
and a large fan. She would not consent to 
remain with Edna, for Monsieur Ratignolle 
was alone, and he detested above all things 
to be left alone. 

When Etienne had fallen asleep Edna 
bore him into the back room, and Robert 
went and lifted the mosquito bar that she 
might lay the child comfortably in his bed. 
The quadroon had vanished. When they 
emerged from the cottage Robert bade 
Edna good-night. 



102 THE AWAKENING 

"Do you know we have been together 
the whole livelong day, Robert — since 
early this morning?" she said at parting. 

"All but the hundred years when you 
were sleeping. Good-night." 

He pressed her hand and went away in 
the direction of the beach. He did not join 
any of the others, but walked alone toward 
the Gulf. 

Edna stayed outside, awaiting her hus- 
band's return. She had no desire to sleep 
or to retire ; nor did she feel like going over 
to sit with the Ratignolles, or to join 
Madame Lebrun and a group whose ani- 
mated voices reached her as they sat in con- 
versation before the house. She let her 
mind wander back over her stay at Grand 
Isle ; and she tried to discover wherein this 
summer had been different from any and 
every other summer of her life. She could 
only reaHze_t hat she __herself— -her present 
self — -was insom^_w^__di^e^e^£I^DmIlh> 
other self. That she was seeing with differ- 
ent eyes and making the acquaintance of new 
conditions in herself that colored and changed 
her environment, she did not yet suspect. 



THE AWAKENING 103 

She wondered why Robert had gone 
away and left her. It did not occur to her 
to think he might have grown tired of being 
with her the livelong day. She was not 
tired, and she felt that he was not. J3he 
re^re_tted_that he had gone. It was so much 
more naturalto^havTTTirri stay, when he 
was not absolutely required to leave her. 

As Edna waited for her husband she sang 
low a little song that Robert had sung as 
they crossed the bay. It began with "Ah! 
St tu savazs," and every verse ended with 
"si tu savais." 

Robert's voice was not pretentious. It t 
was musical and true. The voice, the--^-^. 
notes, the whole refrain haunted her mem^f 
ory. { 



XV 

When Edna entered the dining-room one 
evening a little late, as was her habit, an 
unusually animated conversation seemed to 
be going on. Several persons were talk- 
ing at once, and Victor's voice was predom- 
inating, even over that of his mother. 
Edna had returned late from her bath, had 
dressed in some haste, and her face was 
flushed. Her head, set off by her dainty 
white gown, suggested a rich, rare blossom. 
She took her seat at table between old 
Monsieur Farival and Madame Ratignolle. 

As she seated herself and was about to 
begin to eat her soup, which had been 
served when she entered the room, several 
persons informed her simultaneously that 
Robert was going to Mexico, She laid her 
spoon down and looked about her bewil- 
dered. He had been with her, reading to 
her all the morning, and had never even men- 
104 



THE AWAKENING 105 

tioned such a place as Mexico. She had 
not seen him during the afternoon ; she had 
heard some one say he was at the house, 
upstairs with his mother. This she had 
thought nothing of, though she was sur- 
prised when he did not join her later in 
the afternoon, when she went down to the 
beach. 

She looked across at him, where he sat 
beside Madame Lebrun, who presided. 
Ed na's face was a Mank piVf-m-p nf bewilHpf- 
nient, which she never thought of disguising. 
He lifted his eyebrows with the pretext 
of a smile as he returned her glance. He 
looked embarrassed and uneasy. 

"When is he going?" she asked of every- 
body in general, as if Robert were not there 
to answer for himself. 

"To-night!" "This very evening!" 
"Did you ever!" "What possesses him!" 
were some of the replies she gathered, 
uttered simultaneously in French and Eng- 
lish. 

"Impossible!" she exclaimed. "How 
can a person start off from Grand Isle to 
Mexico at a moment's notice, as if he were 



106 THE AWAKENING 

going over to Klein's or to the wharf or 
down to the beach?" 

"I said all along I was going to Mexico; 
I've been saying so for years!" cried 
Robert, in an excited and irritable tone, 
with the air of a man defending himself 
against a swarm of stinging insects. 

Madame Lebrun knocked on the table 
with her knife handle. 

"Please let Robert explain why he is 
going, and why he is going to-night," she 
called out. "Really, this table is getting 
to be more and more like Bedlam every 
day, with everybody talking at once. 
Sometimes — I hope God will forgive me — 
but positively, sometimes I wish Victor 
would lose the power of speech." 

Victor laughed sardonically as he thanked 
his mother for her holy wish, of which he 
failed to see the benefit to anybody, except 
that it might afford her a more ample oppor- 
tunity and license to talk herself. 

Monsieur Farival thought that Victor 
should have been taken out in mid-ocean in 
his earliest youth and drowned. Victor 
thought there would be more logic in thus 



THE AWAKENING 107 

disposing of old people with an established 
claim for making themselves universally- 
obnoxious. Madame Lebrun grew a trifle 
hysterical ; Robert called his brother some 
sharp, hard names. 

"There's nothing much to explain, 
mother," he said; though he explained, 
nevertheless — looking chiefly at Edna — that 
he could only meet the gentleman whom he 
intended to join at Vera Cruz by taking 
such and such a steamer, which left New 
Orleans on such a day; that Beaudelet was 
going out with his lugger-load of vegetables 
that night, which gave him an opportunity 
of reaching the city and making his vessel 
in time. 

"But when did you make up your mind 
to all this?" demanded Monsieur Farival. 

"This afternoon," returned Robert, with 
a shade of annoyance. 

"At what time this afternoon?" persisted 
the old gentleman, with nagging determina- 
tion, as if he were cross-questioning a crim- 
inal in a court of justice. 

"At four o'clock this afternoon, Monsieur 
Farival," Robert replied, in a high voice 



108 THE AWAKENING 

and with a lofty air, which reminded Edna 
of some gentleman on the stage. 

She had forced herself to eat most of her 
soup, and now she was picking the flaky 
bits of a court bouillon with her fork. 

The lovers were profiting by the general 
conversation on Mexico to speak in whispers 
of matters which they rightly considered 
were interesting to no one but them- 
selves. The lady in black had once received 
a pair of prayer-beads of curious workman- 
ship from Mexico, with very special indul- 
gence attached to them, but she had never 
been able to ascertain whether the indul- 
gence extended outside the Mexican bor- 
der. Father Fochel of the Cathedral had 
attempted to explain it; but he had not 
done so to her satisfaction. And she 
begged that Robert would interest himself, 
and discover, if possible, whether she was 
entitled to the indulgence accompanying 
the remarkably curious Mexican prayer- 
beads. 

Madame Ratignolle hoped that Robert 
would exercise extreme caution in dealing 
with the Mexicans, who, she considered, 



THE AWAKENING 109 

were a treacherous people, unscrupulous and 
revengeful. She trusted she did them no 
injustice in thus condemning them as a 
race. She had known personally but one 
Mexican, who made and sold excellent 
tamales, and whom she would have trusted 
implicitly, so soft-spoken was he. One day 
he was arrested for stabbing his wife. She 
never knew whether he had been hanged or 
not. 

Victor had grown hilarious, and was 
attempting to tell an anecdote about a Mex- 
ican girl who served chocolate one winter in 
a restaurant in Dauphine Street. No one 
would listen to him but old Monsieur Fari- 
val, who went into convulsions over the 
droll story. 

Edna wondered if they had all gone mad, 
to be talking and clamoring at that rate. 
She herself could think of nothing to say 
about Mexico or the Mexicans. 

"At what time do you leave?" she asked 
Robert. 

"At ten," he told her. "Beaudelet 
wants to wait for the moon." 

"Are you all ready to go?" 



no THE AWAKENING 

"Quite ready. I shall only take a hand- 
bag, and shall pack my trunk in the city." 

He turned to answer some question put 
to him by his mother, and Edna, having 
finished her black coffee, left the table. 

She went directly to her room. The lit- 
tle cottage was close and stuffy after leav- 
ing the outer air. But she did not mind; 
there appeared to be a hundred different 
things demanding her attention indoors. 
She began to set the toilet-stand to rights, 
grumbling at the negligence of the quad- 
roon, who was in the adjoining room put- 
ting the children to bed. She gathered 
together stray garments that were hanging 
on the backs of chairs, and put each where 
it belonged in closet or bureau drawer. 
She changed her gown for a more com- 
fortable and commodious wrapper. She 
rearranged her hair, combing and brushing 
it with unusual energy. Then she went in 
and assisted the quadroon in getting the 
boys to bed. 

They were very playful and inclined to 
talk — to do anything but lie quiet and go 
to sleep. Edna sent the quadroon away 




THE AWAKENING in 

to her supper and told her she need not 
return. Then she sat and told the children 
a story. Instead of soothing it excited 
them, and added to their wakefulness. She 
left them in heated argument, speculating 
about the conclusion of the tale which their 
mother promised to finish the following 
night. 

The little black girl came in to say that 
Madame Lebrun would like to have Mrs. 
Pontellier go and sit with themovej. at- the 

house till Mr. Robert went awax- E^rirL 

returned answer that, she had already un- 
dressed, that she did not feel quite well, 
but perhaps she would go over to the 
house later. She started to dress again, 
and got as far advanced as to remove her 
peignoir. But changing her mind once 
more she resumed the peignoir, and went 
outside and sat down before her door. She 
was overheated and irritable, and fanned 
herself energetically for a while. Madame 
Ratignolle came down to discover what was 
the matter. 

"All that noise and confusion at the table 
must have upset me," replied Edna, "and 



ii2 THE AWAKENING 

moreover, I hate shocks and surprises. The 
idea of Robert starting off in such" a* ridicu- 
lously sudden and dramatic way ! As if it 
were a matter of life and death! Never 
saying a word about it all morning when he 
was with me." 

"Yes," agreed Madame Ratignolle. "I 
think it was showing us all — you espe- 
cially — very little consideration. It wouldn't 
have surprised me in any of the others; 
those Lebruns are all given to heroics. But 
I must say I should never have expected 
such a thing from Robert. Are you not 
coming down? Come on, dear; it doesn't 
look friendly." 

"No," said Edna, a little sullenly. "I 
can't go to the trouble of dressing again; 
I don't feel like it." 

"You needn't dress; you look all right; 
fasten a belt around your waist. Just look 
at me!" 

"No," persisted Edna; "but you go on. 
Madame Lebrun might be offended if we 
both stayed away." 

Madame Ratignolle kissed Edna good- 
night, and went away, being in truth rather 



THE AWAKENING 113 

desirous of joining in the general and ani- 
mated conversation which was still in prog- 
ress concerning Mexico and the Mexicans. 

Somewhat later Robert came up, carrying 
his hand-bag. 

"Aren't you feeling well?'', he asked. 

"Oh, weir enough. Are you going right 
away?" 

" He lit a match and looked at his watch. 
"In t wenty minutes," he said. The sudden 
and brief flare of the match emphasized the 
darkness for a while. He sat down upon a 
stool which the children had left out on the 
porch. 

"Get a chair," said Edna. 

"This will do," he replied. He put on 
his soft hat and nervously took it off again, 
and wiping his face with his handkerchief, 
complained of the heat. 

"Take the fan," said Edna, offering it to 
him. 

"Oh, no! Thank you. It does no good; 
you have to stop fanning some time, and 
feel all the more uncomfortable afterward." 

"That's one of the ridiculous things 
which men always say. I have never known 



ii4 THE AWAKENING 

one to speak otherwise of fanning. How 
long will you be gone?" 

" Forever, perhaps. I don't know. It 
depends upon a good many things." 
"""""Well, in case it shouldn't be forever, 
how long will it be?" 

"I don't know." 

"This seems to me perfectly preposterous 
and uncalled for. I don't like it. I don't 
understand your motive for silence and 
mystery, never saying a word to me about 
it this morning." He remained silent, not 
offering to defend himself. He only said, 
after a moment: 

"Don't part from me in an ill-humor. I 
never knew you to be out of patience with 
me before." 

"I don't want to part in any ill-humor," 
she said. "But can't you understand ?_I've 
grown used__to__sedng^j^ou, to having^you 
wifrTme all the time, and your action seems 
unfriefidlyX^veft-^uTTkind. You dorTFeven 
offer an excuse for it.~~ Why, I was plan- 
ning to be together, thinking of how pleas- 
ant it would be to see you in the city next 
winter." 



THE AWAKENING 115 

"So was I," he blurted. "Perhaps 
that's the — " He stood up suddenly and 
held out his hand. "Good-by, my dear 
Mrs. Pontellier; good-by. You won't — I 
hope you won't completely forget me." 
She clung ±oH^HiaTtdr^rivmg"to detain 
him. 

"Write to me when you get there, won't 
you, R ob eft?" ~sh e ~ent r e a t e d . 

"I will, thank you. Good-by." 

How unlike Robert! The merest 
acquaintance would have said something 
more emphatic than "I will, thank you; 
good-by," to such a request. 

He had evidently already taken leave of 
the people over at the house, for he de- 
scended the steps and went to join Beau- 
delet, who was out there with an oar across 
his shoulder waiting for Robert. They 
walked away in the darkness. She could 
only hear Beaudelet's voice; Robert had 
apparently not even spoken a word of greet- 
ing to his companion. 

Edna bit her handkerchief convulsively, 
striving to hold back and to hide, even from 
herself as she would have hidden from an- 



n6 THE AWAKENING 

other, the emotion which was troubling — 
tearing — her. Her eyes were brimming 
with tears. 

1 For the first time she recognized anew 
the symptoms of infatuation which she had 
felt incipiently as a child, as a girl in 
her earliest teens, and later as a young 
woman. The recognition did not lessen the 
reality, the poignancy of the revelation by 
any suggestion or promise of instability. 
The past was nothing to her; offered no 
lesson which she was willing to heed. The 
future was a mystery which she never 
attempted to penetrate. The present alone 
was significant ; was hers, to torture her as 
it was doing then with the biting conviction 
that she had lost that which she had held, 
that she had been denied that which her 
impassioned, newly awakened being de- 
mandedA 








XVI 

"Do you miss your friend greatly?" asked 
Mademoiselle Reisz one morning as she 
came creeping up behind Edna, who had 
just left her cottage on her way to the 
beach. She spent much of her time in the^ 
water since sne nad acquired fina ll y 
of swim ming!' """As their stay at Grand Isk 
drew neaTTts close, she felt that she could 
not give too much time to a diversion which 
afforded her the only real pleasurable mo- 
ments that she knew. When Mademoiselle 
Reisz came and touched her upon the 
shoulder and spoke to her, the woman 
seemed to echo the thought which was ever 
in Edna's mind; or, better, the feeling 
which constantly possessed her. 

Robert's go ing-had some way.takeji_J;he_ 

brightness, the color, the meaning out of 

everything. The conditions of her life 

"were in no way changed, bu t, her^ whole 

existence was dulled, like a faded garment 




n8 THE AWAKENING 

which seems to be no longer worth wearing. 
She soug ht him every w here — in others 
whom she induced to talk about him. She 
went up in the mornings to Madame Le- 
brun's room, braving the clatter of the old 
sewing-machine. She sat there and chatted 
at intervals as Robert had done. She gazed 
around the room at the pictures and photo- 
graphs hanging upon the wall, and discov- 
ered in some corner an old family album, 
which she examined with the keenest in- 
terest, appealing to Madame Lebrun for 
enlightenment concerning the many figures 
and faces which she discovered between its 
pages. 

There was a picture of Madame Lebrun 
with Robert as a baby, seated in her lap, a 
round-faced infant with a fist in his mouth. 
The eyes alone in the baby suggested the 
man. And that was he also in kilts, at 
the age of five, wearing long curls and hold- 
ing a whip in his hand. It made Edna 
laugh, and she laughed, too, at the portrait 
in his first long trousers ; while another inter- 
ested her, taken when he left for college, 
looking thin, long-faced, with eyes full of fire, 



THE AWAKENING 119 

ambition and great intentions. But there 
was no recent picture, none which suggested 
the Robert who had gone away five days ago, 
leaving a void and wilderness behind him. 

"Oh, Robert stopped having his pictures 
taken when he had to pay for them himself ! 
He found wiser use for his money, he says," 
explained Madame Lebrun. She had a 
letter from him, written before he left New 
Orleans. Edna wished to see the letter, 
and Madame Lebrun told her to look for it 
either on the table or the dresser, or per- 
haps it was on the mantelpiece. 

The letter was on the bookshelf. It 
possessed the greatest interest and attraction 
for Edna; the envelope, its size and shape, 
the post-mark, the handwriting. She ex- 
amined every detail of the outside before 
opening it. There were only a few lines, 
setting forth that he would leave the city 
that afternoon, that he had packed his 
trunk in good shape, that he was well, and 
sent her his love and begged to be affec- 
tionately remembered to all. There was no 
special message to Edna except a postscript 
saying that if Mrs. Pontellier desired to 



120 THE AWAKENING 

finish the book which he had been reading 
to her, his mother would find it in his room, 
among other books there on the table. 
Edna experienced a pang of jealousy be- 
cause he had written to his mother rather 
than to her. 

Every one seemed to take for granted 
that she missed him. Even her husband, 
when he came down the Saturday follow- 
ing Robert's departure, expressed regret 
that he had gone. 

VIHqh do you get on without him, 
Edna?" he asked. 

_"It's very dull without him," she ad- 
mitted. Mr. Pontellier had seen Robert 
in the city, and Edna asked him a dozen 
questions or more. Where had they met? 
On Carondelet Street, in the morning. 
They had gone "in" and had a drink and a 
cigar together. What had they talked 
about? Chiefly about his prospects in 
Mexico, which Mr. Pontellier thought were 
promising. How did he look? How did 
he seem — grave, or gay, or how? Quite 
cheerful, and wholly taken up with the idea 
of his trip, which Mr. Pontellier found alto- 



THE AWAKENING 121 

gether natural in a young fellow about to 
seek fortune and adventure in a strange, 
queer country. 

Edna tapped her foot impatiently, and 
wondered why the children persisted in 
playing in the sun when they might be 
under the trees. She went down and led 
them out of the sun, scolding the quadroon 
for not being more attentive. 

It did not strike her as in the least gro- 
tesque that she should be making of Robert 
the object of conversation and leading her 
husband to speak of him. The sentiment 
which she entertained for Robert in no way 
resembled that which she felt for her hus- 
band, or had ever felt, or ever expected to 
feel. She had all her life long been accus- / 
tomed to harbor thoughts and emotions' 
which never voiced themselves. They had 
never taken the form of struggles. They 
belonged to her and were her own, and she 
entertained the conviction that she had a 
right to them anc Ltkafe -tl igy conc erned no 
one but herself. 1 Edna had once told 
Madame Ratignolle that she would never 
sacrifice herself for her children, or for any 



122 THE AWAKENING 

one. Then had followed a rather heated 
argument; the two women did not appear 
to understand each other or to be talking 
the same language. Edna tried to appease 
her friend, to explain. 

"I would give up the unessential; I 
would give my money, I would give my 
life for my children; but I wouldn't give 
myself. I can't make it more clear; it's 
only something which I am beginning 
to comprehend, which is revealing itself to 
me." 

"I don't know what you would call the 
essential, or what you mean by the unessen- 
tial," said Madame Ratignolle, cheerfully; 
"but a woman who would give her life for 
her children could do no more than that — 
your Bible tells you so. I'm sure I couldn't 
do more than that." 

"Oh, yes you could!" laughed Edna^ 

She was not surprised" at Mademoiselle 
Reisz's question the morning that lady, fol- 
lowing her to the beach, tapped her on the 
shoulder and asked if she did not greatly 
miss her young friend. 

"Oh, good morning, Mademoiselle; is it 



THE AWAKENING 123 

you? Why, of course I miss Robert. Are 
you going down to bathe?" 

"Why should I go down to bathe at the 
very end of the season when I haven't been 
in the surf all summer," replied the woman, 
disagreeably. 

"I beg your pardon," offered Edna, in 
some embarrassment, for she should have 
remembered that Mademoiselle Reisz's 
avoidance of the water had furnished a 
theme for much pleasantry. Some among 
them thought it was on account of her 
false hair, or the dread of getting the violets 
wet, while others attributed it to the nat- 
ural aversion for water sometimes believed 
to accompany the artistic temperament. 
Mademoiselle offered Edna some chocolates 
in a paper bag, which she took from her 
pocket, by way of showing that she bore 
no ill feeling. She habitually ate chocolates 
for their sustaining quality; they contained 
much nutriment in small compass, she said. 
They saved her from starvation, as Madame 
Lebrun's table was utterly impossible ; and 
no one save so impertinent a woman as 
Madame Lebrun could think of offering 



124 THE AWAKENING 

such food to people and requiring them to 
pay for it. 

"She must feel very lonely without her 
son," said Edna, desiring to change the sub- 
ject. "Her favorite son, too. It must 
have been quite hard to let him go." 

Mademoiselle laughed maliciously. 

"Her favorite son! Oh, dear! Who 
could have been imposing such a tale upon 
you? Aline Lebrun lives for Victor, and 
for Victor alone. She has spoiled him into 
the worthless creature he is. She worships 
him and the ground he walks on. Robert 
is very well in a way, to give up all the 
money he can earn to the family, and keep 
the barest pittance for himself. Favorite 
son, indeed ! I miss the poor fellow my- 
self, my dear. I liked to see him and to 
hear him about the place — the only Lebrun 
who is worth a pinch of salt. He comes to 
see me often in the city. I like to play 
to him. That Victor! hanging would be too 
good for him. It's a wonder Robert hasn't 
beaten him to death long ago." 

"I thought he had great patience with 
his brother," offered Edna, glad to be 



THE AWAKENING 125 

talking about Robert, no matter what was 
said. 

"Oh! he thrashed him well enough a 
year or two ago," said Mademoiselle. "It 
was about a Spanish girl, whom Victor con- 
sidered that he had some sort of claim 
upon. He met Robert one day talking to 
the girl, or walking with her, or bathing 
with her, or carrying her basket — I don't 
remember what ; — and he became so insult- 
ing and abusive that Robert gave him a 
thrashing on the spot that has kept him 
comparatively in order for a good while. 
It's about time he was getting another." 

"Was her name Mariequita?" asked 
Edna. 

"Mariequita — yes, that was it; Marie- 
quita. I had forgotten. Oh, she's a sly one, 
and a bad one, that Mariequita!" 

Edna looked down at Mademoiselle 
Reisz and wondered how she could have 
listened to her venom so long. For some 
reason she felt depressed, almost unhappy. 
QV.^ v.^ rirrf intended £fl g n into the, wate r; 
but she donned her bathing suit, and left 
Mademoiselle alone, seated under the shade 



126 THE AWAKENING 

of the children's tent. The water was 
growing co oler as the sea son advanced. 
Edfl^^mngecl and swa m abou t wit h an 
abandon that thrilled and invigorated her." 
She remained a long time in the water, ha! 
hoping that Mademoiselle Reisz would not 
wait for her. 

But Mademoiselle waited. She was very 
amiable during the walk back, and raved 
much over Edna's appearance in her bath- 
ing suit. She talked about music. She 
hoped that Edna would go to see her in 
the city, and wrote her address with the 
stub of a pencil on a piece of card which she 
found in her pocket. 

"When do you leave?" asked Edna. 

"Next Monday; and you?" 

"The following week," answered Edna, 
adding, "It has been a pleasant summer, 
hasn't it, Mademoiselle?" 

"Well," agreed Mademoiselle Reisz, 
with a shrug, "rather pleasant, if it hadn't 
been for the mosquitoes and the Farival 
twins." 



XVII 

The Pontelliers possessed a very__cJi£Fm- 
jng„i}orn£ on Espla nade Street in J jew 
Orlea ns,. It was a large., double cottage, 
with a broad front veranda, whose round, 
fluted columns supported the sloping roof. 
The house was painted a dazzling whi te ; the 
outside shutters, or jalousies, were green. 
In the yard, which was kept scrupulously 
neat, were flowers and plants of every de- 
scription which flourishes in South Louisi- 
ana. Within doors the appointments were 
perfect after the conventional type. The 
softest carpets and rugs covered the floors; 
rich and tasteful draperies hung at doors and 
windows. There were paintings, selected 
with judgment and discrimination, upon 
the walls. The cut glass, the silver, the 
heavy damask which daily appeared upon 
the table were the envy of many women 
whose husbands were less generous than 
Mr. Pontellier. 

127 



128 THE AWAKENING 

c Mr. Pontellier was very fond of walking 
about his house examining its various 
appointments and details, to see that noth- 
ing was amiss. He greatly valued his pos- 

. sessions, chiefly because they were his, and 
derived genuine pleasure from contemplat- 
ing a painting, a statuette, a rare lace cur- 
tain — no matter what — after he had bought 
it and placed it among his household gods. 

\ On Tuesday afternoons — Tuesday being 

Mrs. Pontellier's reception oTay-— there was 

a constanFinrfeam~cT~cailers — women who 

came in carriages or in the street cars, or 

walked when the air was soft and distance 

permitted. A light- colored mulatto boy, 

in dress coat and bearing a^cTTmTnutive 

silver tray for the reception of cards, ad- 

mittecl them. A maid, in white fluted 

\j"-\ cap, offered the callers liqueur, coffee, 

) or chocolate, as they might desire. Mrs. 

^ . Pontellier, attired in a handsome reception 
_j ,.^^ _ m — -'. ' — s— — - 

■\ \. gown, remained in the drawing-room the 

N^ c^ entire afternoon receiving her visitors. Men 

S. '^ 'C/S sometimes called in the evening with 

** 8s K^ £\~"N their wives. 

\. This had been the programme which Mrs. 



f*/CL 



THE AWAKENING. / 129 

Pontellier had religiously followed "since her 
marriage] six years before. Certain even- . r^\£ /*v 
ings duTfrTg^^^"weelr "she and her hus- 
band attended the opera or sometimes the 

Mr. Pontellier left his home in the morn- 
ings between nine and ten o'clock, and 
rarely returned before half-past six or seven 
in the evening — dinner being served at half- 
past seven. 

He and his wife seated themselves at 
table one Tuesday evening, a few weeks 
after their return from Grand Isle. They 
were alone together. The boys were being 
put to bed ; the patter of their bare, escap- 
ing feet could be heard occasionally, as well 
as the pursuing voice of the quadroon, lifted 
in mild protest and entreaty. Mrs. Pontel- 
lier did not wear her usual Tuesday recep- 
tion gown ; she was in ordinary house dress. 
Mr. Pontellier, who was observant about 
such things, noticed it, as he served the soup 
and handed it to the boy in waiting. 

"Tired out, Edna? Whom did you 
have? Many callers?" he asked. He tasted 
his soup and began to season it with pepper, 



130 



THE AWAKENING 




salt, vinegar, mustard — everything within 
reach. 

"There were a good many," replied 
Edna, who was eating her soup with 
evident satisfaction. "I found their cards 
when I got home; I was out." 

"Out!" exclaimed her husband, with 
something like genuine consternation in his 
voice as he laid down the vinegar cruet and 
looked at her through his glasses. "Why^. 
what could_h ave tak en you out on Tuesday? 
WJaat-444-^au_iiay£ to dq?J ' 
y "Nothing^ I simply felt like going out, 
and I went out." """**•" — ---——-- — — — — — , 

"Well^ THhope you left some suitable 
excuse," said her husband, somewhat 
appeased, as he added a dash of cayenne 
pepper to the soup. 

"Noj I left _no excuse. I told Joe to 
say I was out, that was all." 

"Why, my dear, I should think you'd 
understand by this time that people don't 
do such things; we've got to'^obBefve^J 
convena?ices if we ej/ex-expect to get on and 
keejp^ up wi th the, pro cession? TT'you felt 
that you had to leave home this afternoon, 



THE AWAKENING 131 

you should have left some suitable explana- 
tion for your absence. 

"This soup is really impossible; it's 
strange that woman hasn't learned yet to 
make a decent soup. Any free-lunch stand 
in town serves a better one. Was Mrs. 
Belthrop here?" 

"Bring the tray with the cards, Joe. I 
don't remember who was here." 

The boy retired and returned after a mo- 
ment, bringing the tiny silver tray, which 
was covered with ladies' visiting cards. He 
handed it to Mrs. Pontellier. 

"Give it to Mr. Pontellier," she said. 

Joe offered the tray to Mr. Pontellier, and 
removed the soup. 

Mr. Pontellier scanned the names of his 
wife's callers, reading some of them aloud, 
with comments as he read. 

" 'The Misses Delasidas.' I worked a 
big deal in futures for their father this 
morning; nice girls; it's time they were 
getting married. 'Mrs. Belthrop.' I tell 
you what it is, Edna; you can't afford to 
snub Mrs. Belthrop. Why, Belthrop could 
buy and sell us ten times over. His busi- 



i 3 2 THE AWAKENING 

ness is worth a good, round sum to me. 
You'd better write her a note. 'Mrs. 
James Highcamp.' Hugh! the less you 
have to do with Mrs. Highcamp, the better. 
'Madame LaforceV Came all the way from 
Carrolton, too, poor old soul. ' Miss Wiggs, ' 
'Mrs. Eleanor Boltons.' " He pushed the 
cards asMe. 

' ' Mercy ! " exclaimed Edn a^ who had 
been fuming. "Why are you taking the 
thing so seriously and makTngJsuch a fuss 
over itTlZTr 

"I'm not making any fuss over it. But 
it's just such seeming trifles that we've got 
to take seriously ; such things coyuatJ-'- 

The fish was scorched. Mr. Pontellier 
would not touch it. Edna said she did not 
mind a little scorched taste. The roast was 
in some way not to his fancy, and he did 
not like the manner in which the vege- 
tables were served. 

"It seems to me," he said, "we spend 
money enough in this house to procure at 
least one meal a day which a man could eat 
and retain his self-respect." 



THE AWAKENING 133 

"You used to think the cook was a treas- 
ure," returned Edna, indifferently. 

"Perhaps she was when she first came; J \ 
but cooks are only human. They need 
looking after, like any other class of per- V 
sons that you employ. Suppose I didn't f 
look after the clerks in my office, just let \ 
them run things their own way ; they'd soon \ 
make a nice mess of me and my business. " *~^ ' 

"Where are you going?" asked Edna, 
seeing that her husband arose from table 
without having eaten a morsel except a 
taste of the highly-seasoned soup. 

"I' m^oing to get my dinner at the club. 
Good night/' hie went into the hall, 
tooK^his hat and stick from the stand, and 
left the house. 

She was somewhat familiar with such 
scenes. They had often made her very 
unhappy. On a few previous occasions she 
had been completely deprived of any desire 
to finish her dinner. Sometimes she had 
gone into the kitchen to administer a tardy 
rebuke to the cook. Once she went to her 
room and studied the cookbook during an 
entire evening, finally writing out a menu 



i 3 4 THE AWAKENING 

for the week, which left her harassed with 
a feeling that, after all, she had accomplished 
no good that was worth the name. 

But that evening Edna finished her din- 
ner alone, with forced deliberation. Her 
face was flushed and her eyes flamed with 
some inward fire that lighted them. After 
finishing her dinner she went to her room, 
having instructed the boy to tell any other 
callers that she was indisposed. 

It was a large, beautiful room, rich and 
picturesque in the soft, dim light which the 
maid had turned low. She went and stood 
at an open window and looked out upon 
the deep tangle of the garden below. All the 
mystery and witchery of the night seemed 
to have gathered there amid the perfumes 
and the dusky and tortuous outlines of 
flowers and foliage. Jane was seeking 
hers elf and finding herself in just such 
sweet, half-darkness which met her moo"£fe^. 
I But the voices were notsooThittg 1 that came 
| to her from the darkness and the sky above 
I and the stars. They jeered- and sounded 
mournful notes without promise, devoid 
even of hope. She turned back into the 



THE AWAKENING 135 

room and began to walk to and fro down 
its whole length, without stopping, without 
resting. She carried in her hands a thin 
handkerchief, which she tore into ribbons, 
rolled into a ball, and flung from her. ( n . /Pi "jt~7) 
Once she stopped, and taking off her wed- 
ding ring, flung it upon the carpeE When — 




she saw it lying there, she stamped her heel 

upon" Tt, striving to crush it. But Ircr 

small Ti)bot heel did not make an indenture, fCj\V\0 "~"~ 

not a mark upon the little glittering cir- . AAn VV 



clet. j 

In a sweeping passion she seized a glass ^ 

vase from the table and flung it upon the - " 
tiles of the hearth. ~SKe ' w~ah"ted ' tortestrey- 
something. The crash and clatter were 
what she wanted to hear. 

A maid, alarmed at the din of breaking 
glass, entered the room to discover what 
was the matter. 

"A vase fell upon the hearth," said 
Edna. "Never mind; leave it till morn- 
ing. 

"Oh! you might get some of the glass in 
your feet, ma'am," insisted the young 
woman, picking up bits of the broken 



136 THE AWAKENING 

vase that were scattered upon the carpet. 
"And hgre/fi ynnr ring, ma'am, under the 
chair."' 

Edna held out her hand, and taking the 
ring, slipped it upon her finger. 



\1 



XVIII 

The following morning Mr. Pontellier, 
upon leaving for his office, asked Edna if 
she would not meet him in town in order to 
look at some new fixtures for the library. 

"I hardly fVl1 '" v we, nppr 1 aaat fesfcmeSw, 
Leonce. Don't let us get anything new; 
you are too extravagant. I don't believe 
you ever think of saving or putting by." 

"The way to become rich is to make 
money, my dear Edna, not to save it," he 
said. He regretted that she did not feel 
inclined to go with him and select new fix- 
tures. He kissed her good-by, and told her 
she was not looking well and must take care 
of herself. She was unusually pale and very 
quiet. 

ShlT"~stood on the front veranda as he 
quitted the house, and absently picked a few 
sprays of jessamine that grew upon a trellis 
near by. She inhaled the odor of the blos- 
soms and thrust them into the bosom of her 
i37 



138 THE AWAKENING 

white morning gown. The boys were drag- 
ging along the banquette a small "express 
wagon," which they had filled with blocks 
and sticks. The quadroon was following 
them with little quick steps, having assumed 
a fictitious animation and alacrity for the 
occasion. A fruit vender was crying his 
wares in the street. 

Edna looked straight before her with a 
self-absorbed expression upon her face. 
She felt no interest in anything about her. 
The street, the children, the fruit vender, 
wthe flowers growing there under her eyes, 
Mwere all part and parcel of an alien world 
which had suddenly become antagonistic. 

She went back into the house. She had 
thought of speaking to the cook concerning 
her blunders of the previous night; but Mr. 
Pontellier had saved her that disagreeable 
mission, for which she was so poorly fitted. 
Mr. Pontellier's arguments were usually 
convincing with those whom he employed. 
He left home feeling quite sure that he and 
Edna would sit down that evening, and 
possibly a few subsequent evenings, to a 
dinner deserving of the name. 



THE AWAKENING 139 

Edna spent an hour or two in looking 
over some of her old sketches. She could 
see their shortcomings and defects, which 
were glaring in her eyes. She tried to work 
a little, but found she was not in the humor. 
Finally she gathered together a few of the 
sketches — those which she considered the 
least discreditable ; and she carried them 
with her when, a little later, she dressed and 
left the house. She looked handsome and 
distinguished in her street g uWll»_ The tan 
of-thtfseash o re had left her face, and her 
forehead was smooth, white, and polished 
beneath her heavy, yellow-brown hair. ^_^ Al^ft/iffi* 
There were a few freckles on her face, and 
a small, dark mole near the under lip and 
one on the temple, half-hidden in her hair. 

As Edna walked along the street she was 
t hinking of Robert. She was still under 
the spel l of her infatuation. She had tried " 
to forget him, realizing "the inutility of 
remembering. But the thought of him was 
l ike an obsessio n, ever pressing itself upon 
her. It was not that she dwelt upon details 
of their acquaintance, or recalled in any 
special or peculiar way his personality ; it 



$&&? 



140 THE AWAKENING 

w as his hping^-ns^eyUtenre, which domi- 
nated her thought, fading sometimes as if it 
woulcT melt into the mist of the forgotten, 
reviving again with an intensity which filled 
her with an incomprehensible longing. 

Edna was on her way to Madame Ratig- 
nolle's. Their intimacy, begun at Grand 
Isle, had not declined, and they had seen 
each other with some frequency since their 
return to the city. The Ratignolles lived 
at no great distance from Edna's home, on 
the corner of a side street, where Monsieur 
Ratignolle owned and conducted a drug 
store which enjoyed a steady and prosper- 
ous trade. His father had been in the busi- 
ness before him, and Monsieur Ratignolle 
stood well in the community and bore an 
enviable reputation for integrity and clear- 
headedness. His family lived in commodi- 
ous apartments over the store, having an 
entrance on the side within the florte cocker e. 
There was something which Edna thought 
very French, very foreign, about their whole 
manner of living. In the large and pleasant 
salon which extended across the width of 
the house, the Ratignolles entertained their 



THE AWAKENING 141 

friends once a fortnight with a soiree musi- 
cale, sometimes diversified by card-playing. 
There was a friend who played upon the 
'cello. One brought his flute and another 
his violin, while there were some who sang 
and a number who performed upon the 
piano with various degrees of taste and agil- 
ity. The R atjgn lies' soirjes miisicalcs 
were wi dely known, and it was consid ered a 
privilege tojae-iradtai to them. ^_ 

Edna found her friend engaged in assort- 
ing the clothes which had returned that 
morning from the laundry. She at once 
abandoned her occupation upon seeing 
Edna, who had been ushered without cere- 
mony into her presence. 

"'Cite can do it as well as I; it is really 
her business," she explained to Edna, who 
apologized for interrupting her. And she 
summoned a young black woman, whom 
she instructed, in French, to be very careful 
in checking off the list which she handed 
her. She told her to notice particularly if 
a fine linen handkerchief of Monsieur Ratig- 
nolle's, which was missing last week, had 
been returned; and to be sure to set to one 



i 4 2 THE AWAKENING 

side such pieces as required mending and 
darning.,^. 

Then placing an arm around Edna's 
waist, she led her to the front of the house, 
to the salomwhere it was cool and sweet 
with the odor of great roses that stood upon 
the hearth in jars. 

Madame Ratignolle looked more beauti- 
ful than ever there at home, in a neglige 
which left her arms almost wholly bare and 
exposed the rich, melting curves of her 
white throat. 

"Perhaps I shall be able to paint your 
picture some day," said Edna with a smile 
when they were seated. She produced the 
roll of sketches and started to unfold them. 
"I believe I ought to work again. I feel as 
if I wanted to be doing something. What 
do you think of them? Do you think it 
worth while to take it up again and study 
some more? I might study for a while with 
Laidpore." 

She knew that Madame Ratignolle's opin- 
ion in such a matter would be next to 
valueless, that she herself had not alone 
decided, but determined ; but she sought 



THE AWAKENING 143 

the words of praise and encouragement that 
would help her to put heart into her venture. 
"Your talent is immense, dear!" 
"Nonsense!" protested Edna, well 
pleased. 

"Immense, I tell you," persisted Madame 
Ratignolle, surveying the sketches one by 
one, at close range, then holding them at 
arm's length, narrowing her eyes, and drop- 
ping her head on one side. "Surely, this 
Bavarian peasant is worthy of framing ; and 
this basket of apples! never have I seen 
anything more lifelike. One might almost 
be tempted to reach out a hand and take 
one." 

Edna could not control a feeling which 
bordered upon complacency at her friend's 
praise, even realizing, as she did, its true 
worth. She retained a few of the sketches, 
and gave all the rest to Madame Ratignolle, 
who appreciated the gift far beyond its 
value and proudly exhibited the pictures to 
her husband when he came up from the 
store a little later for his midday dinner. 

Mr. Ratignolle was one of those men who 
are called the salt of the earth. His cheer- 



i 4 4 THE AWAKENING 

fulness was unbounded, and it was matched 
by his goodness of heart, his broad charity, 
and common sense. He and his wife spoke 
English with an accent which was only dis- 
cernible through its un-English emphasis 
and a certain carefulness and deliberation. 
Edna's husband spoke English with no 
accent whatever. The Ratignolles under- 
Sto od each other p erfectly- |f fw»r *!->*> ^ 
fusion of two human beings into one has 
been accomplished on this sphere it was. 
surely in their union. 

As Edna seated herself at table with 
them she thought, "Better a dinner of 
herbs," though it did not take her long to 
discover that was no dinner of herbs, but 
a delicious repast, simple, choice, and in 
every way satisfying. 

Monsieur Ratignolle was delighted to see 
her, though he found her looking not so 
well as at Grand Isle, and he advised a 
tonic. He talked a good deal on various 
topics, a little politics, some city news and 
neighborhood gossip. He spoke with an 
animation and earnestness that gave an 
exaggerated importance to every syllable he 



THE AWAKENING 145 

uttered. His wife was keenly interested in , 
everything he said, laying down her fork 
the better to listen, chiming in, taking the 
wryjde^ffnTof' his mouth. 

Edna felt depressed ra ther than qnothpd 
after leaving them. The little glimpse of 
domestic harmony which had been offered 
her, gave her no regret, no longing. I t was , 
not a condition of life which fitted her, and{ j^ 
she could see "in it but an appalling and ( \ 
hopeless ennui. She was moved by a kind >*-/ 
of commiseration for Madame Ratignolle, — 
a pity for that colorless existence which 
never uplifted its possessor beyond the 
region of blind contentment, in which no 
moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in 
which she would never have the taste of 
life's delh^mm. \ Edna vaguely wondered 
what she meant by "life's delirium." It 
had crossed her thought like some un- 
sought, extraneous impression. -5* 



XIX 



Edna could not help but think that it was 
very foolish, very childish, to have stamped 
upon her wedding ring and smashed the 
crystal vase upon the tiles. She was visited 
by no m ore outbursts, moving her~Tosuch 
futile expedients. "She began to do as she 
liked and to feel as she liked. She_£ojrL=- 
plet ely abandoned her Tuesdays at home, 
and did not re t urn t he visits of those"Wh"0' 
had called. ..upeft~her. She~lna^e~Trertne#ect-' 
ual efforts to conduct her household en bonne 
me'nagere, going and coming as it suited 
her fancy, and, so far as she was able, lend- 
ing herself to any passing caprice. 

Mr. Pontellier had been a rather cour- 
teous husband so long as he met a certain 
tacit submissiveness in his wife. But her 
new and unexpected line of conducTcom- 
pletely be^wiI3eTEiiTffim7~~ It shocked him. 
Then her absolute disregard for her duties 
as a wife angered him. When Mr. Pontel- 
146 



THE AWAKENING 147 

Her became rude, Edna grew insolent. She 
had resolved never to take another step 
backward. 

"It seems to me the utmost folly for a 
woman at the head of a household, and the 
mother of children, to spend in an atelier 
days which would be better employed con- 
triving for the comfort of her family." 

"I feel like painting," answered Edna, 
m't always feel like it." 



'Then in God's name paint! but don't 
let the family go to the devil. There's 
Madame Ratignolle; because she keeps up 
her music, she doesn't let everything else 
go to chaos. And she's more of a musician 
than you are a painter." 

"She isn't a musician, and I'm not a 
painter. It isn'to n arrnnnt n f_jvur\t\n<y 
that I let tfi ings^go.Y 

1 ' On account of ^what. th&ni" 

" Oh ! JLxlan-~fe-k-i*ei>w. Let me alone; you 

It sometimes entered Mr. Pontellier's 
mind to wonder if his wjffc-^were nQt ^grow- 
in g a little unbalanced m entally. He could 
see plainly that she was not herself. That 




148 THE AWAKENING 

is, k g, could not see that sh e was be coming 
h erself and daily ca sting aside that fictitious 
self which _w assume like a garmentwitE" 

Her husband let her alone as she re- 
quested, and went away to his office. Edna 
went up to her atelier — a bright room in the 
top of the house. She was working with 
great energy and interest, without accom- 
plishing anything, however, which satisfied 
her even in the smallest degree. For a 
time she had the whole household enrolled 
in the service of art. The boys posed for 
her. They thought it amusing at first, but 
the occupation soon lost its attractiveness 
when they discovered that it was not a game 
arranged especially for their entertainment. 
The quadroon sat for hours before Edna's 
palette, patient as a savage, while the house- 
maid took charge of the children, and the 
drawing-room went undusted. But the 
house-maid, too, served her term as model 
when Edna perceived that the young wom- 
an's back and shoulders were molded on 
classic lines, and that her hair, loosened 
from its confining cap, became an inspiration. 



THE AWAKENING 



149 



While Edna worked she sometimes sang low 
the little air, "A/i/ si tu savatsf" 

It moved her with recoll ections. She 
could Is e.n 



again tne ripple of the water, 
le flap ping sail . She could see the glint 
ot the moon upon the bay, and could feel 



the soft, gusty beating of the hot south 
wind. A subtle current of desire passed 
through her body, weakening her hold 
upon the brushes and making her eyes 
burn. 

Theje__were__days_ wJieji_ J she__was very 
na ppy without knowing why. She was hap^" 
py to be alive and breathing, when her 
"whole being seemed to be one with the sun- 
light, the color, the odors, the luxuriant 
warmth ol some perfect Southern day. 
She liked then to wander alone into strange 
and unfamiliar places. She discovered many 
a "slinrry7~sleepy corner, fashioned to dream 
in. "And she~TcHlTTd"Tt"gotK^^ 
to be alone and unmolested. 

There_we£e_ 4ays w hen she was unharjpyj._ 
she did not know why,' — wherTTt did not 
seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be 
alive or dead; when life appeared to her 



150 THE AWAKENING 

like a grotesque pandemonium and human- 
ity like worms struggling blindly toward 
inevitable annihilation. She could not 
work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir 
her pulses and warm her blood, 



,o 




It was during such a mood that Edna 
hunted up Mademoiselle Reisz. She had not 
forgotten the rather disagreeable impression 
left upon her by their last interview ; but 
she nevertheless felt a desire to see her — 
above all, to listen while she played upon the 
piano. Quite early in the afternoon she 
started upon her quest for the pianist. 
Unfortunately she had mislaid or lost Made- 
moiselle Reisz's card, and looking up her 
address in the city directory, she found that 
the woman lived on Bienville Street, some 
distance away. The directory which fell 
into her hands was a year or more old, how- 
ever, and upon reaching the number in- 
dicated, Edna discovered that the house 
was occupied by a respectable family of 
mulattoes who had chambres garnies to let. 
They had been living there for six months, 
and knew absolutely nothing of a Mademoi- 
selle Reisz. In fact, they knew nothing of 
151 



152 THE AWAKENING 

any of their neighbors; their lodgers were 
all people of the highest distinction, they 
assured Edna. She did not linger to dis- 
cuss class distinctions with Madame Pou- 
ponne, but hastened to a neighboring 
grocery store, feeling sure that Mademoi- 
selle would have left her address with the 
proprietor. 

He knew Mademoiselle Reisz a good deal 
better than he wanted to know her, he 
informed his questioner. In truth, he did 
not want to know her at all, or anything 
concerning her — the most disagreeable and 
unpopular woman who ever lived in Bien- 
ville Street. He thanked heaven she had left 
the neighborhood, and was equally thankful 
that he did not know where she had gone. 

Edna's desire to see Mademoiselle Reisz 
had increased tenfold since these unlooked- 
for obstacles had arisen to thwart it. She 
was wondering who could give her the infor- 
mation she sought, when it suddenly oc- 
curred to her that Madame Lebrun would be 
the one most likely to do so. She knew it 
was useless to ask Madame Ratignolle, who 
was on the most distant terms with the 



THE AWAKENING 153 

musician, and preferred to know nothing 
concerning her. She had once been almost 
as emphatic in expressing herself upon the 
subject as the corner grocer. 

Edna knew that Madame Lebrun had 
returned to the city, for it was the middle 
of November. And she also knew where 
the Lebruns lived, on Chartres Street. 

Their home from the outside looked like 
a prison, with iron bars before the door and 
lower windows. The iron bars were a relic 
of the old regime, and no one had ever 
thought of dislodging them. At the side 
was a high fence enclosing the garden. A 
gate or door opening upon the street was 
locked. Edna rang the bell at this side 
garden gate, and stood upon the banquette, 
waiting to be admitted. 

It was Victor who opened the gate for 
her. A black woman, wiping her hands 
upon her apron, was close at his heels. 
Before she saw them Edna could hear them 
in altercation, the woman — plainly an 
anomaly — claiming the right to be allowed 
to perform her duties, one of which was to 
answer the bell. 



i 5 4 THE AWAKENING 

Victor was surprised and delighted to see 
Mrs. Pontellier, and he made no attempt 
to conceal either his astonishment or his 
delight. He was a dark-browed, good- 
looking youngster of nineteen, greatly 
resembling his mother, but with ten times 
her impetuosity. He instructed the black 
woman to go at once and inform Madame 
Lebrun that Mrs. Pontellier desired to see 
her. The woman grumbled a refusal to do 
part of her duty when she had not been 
permitted to do it all, and started back to 
her interrupted task of weeding the garden. 
Whereupon Victor administered a rebuke in 
the form of a volley of abuse, which, 
owing to its rapidity and incoherence, was 
all but incomprehensible to Edna. What- 
ever it was, the rebuke was convincing, for 
the woman dropped her hoe and went 
mumbling into the house. 

Edna did not wish to enter. It was very 
pleasant there on the side porch, where 
there were chairs, a wicker lounge, and a 
small table. She seated herself, for she was 
tired from her long tramp; and she be- 
gan to rock gently and smooth out the 



THE AWAKENING 155 

folds of her silk parasol. Victor drew up 
his chair beside her. He at once explained 
that the black woman's offensive conduct 
was all due to imperfect training, as he was 
not there to take her in hand. He had 
only come up from the island the morning 
before, and expected to return next day. 
He stayed all winter at the island ; he lived 
there, and kept the place in order and got 
things ready for the summer visitors. 

But a man needed occasional relaxation, 
he informed Mrs. Pontellier, and every now 
and again he drummed up a pretext to bring 
him to the city. My ! but he had had a 
time of it the evening before ! He wouldn't 
want his mother to know, and he began to 
talk in a whisper. He was scintillant with 
recollections. Of course, he couldn't think 
of telling Mrs. Pontellier all about it, she 
being a woman and not comprehending such 
things. But it all began with a girl peep- 
ing and smiling at him through the shutters 
as he passed by. Oh ! but she was a 
beauty! Certainly he smiled back, and 
went up and talked to her. Mrs. Pontel- 
lier did not know him if she supposed he was 



156 THE AWAKENING 

one to let an opportunity like that escape 
him. Despite herself, the youngster 
amused her. She must have betrayed in 
her look some degree of interest or enter- 
tainment. The boy grew more daring, and 
Mrs. Pontellier might have found herself, in 
a little while, listening to a highly colored 
story but for the timely appearance of 
Madame Lebrun. 

That lady was still clad in white, accord- 
ing to her custom of the summer. Her eyes 
beamed an effusive welcome. Would not 
Mrs. Pontellier go inside? Would she par- 
take of some refreshment? Why had she 
not been there before? How was that dear 
Mr. Pontellier and how were those sweet 
children? Had Mrs. Pontellier ever known 
such a warm November? 

Victor went and reclined on the wicker 
lounge behind his mother's chair, where he 
commanded a view of Edna's face. He had 
taken her parasol from her hands while he 
spoke to her, and he now lifted it and 
twirled it above him as he lay on his back. 
When Madame Lebrun complained that it 
was so dull coming back to the city ; that she 



THE AWAKENING 157 

saw so few people now ; that even Victor, 
when he came up from the island for a day 
or two, had so much to occupy him and 
engage his time ; then it was that the youth 
went into contortions on the lounge and 
winked mischievously at Edna. She some- 
how felt like a confederate in crime, and 
tried to look severe and disapproving. 

There had been but t wo lette rs from 
Rob ert. witfiTTttle m t hgm-j t hrX-t2llLh^ t ' 
Victor said it was really not worth while 
to go inside for the letters, when his mother 
entreated him to go in search of them. He 
remembered the contents, which in truth he 
rattled off very glibly when put to the 
test. 

One letter was written from Vera Cruz and 
the other f rom the City ofMgxico- He 
had met Montel, who was doing everything 
toward his advancement. So far, the finan- 
cial situation was no improvement over the 
one he had left in New Orleans, but of 
course the prospects were vastly better. He 
wrote of the City of Mexico, the buildings, 
the people and their habits, the conditions 
of life which he found there. He sent his 



158 THE AWAKENING 

love to the family. He inclosed a check to 
his mother, and hoped she would affection- 
ately remember him to all his friends. 
That was about the substance of the two 
letters. Edna felt that if there had been a 
message for her, she would have received it. 
The despondent frame of mind in which she 
had left home began again to overtake her, 
and she remembered that she wished to find 
Mademoiselle Reisz. 

Madame Lebrun knew where Mademoi- 
selle Reisz lived. She gave Edna the 
address, regretting that she would not con- 
sent to stay and spend the remainder of the 
afternoon, and pay a visit to Mademoiselle 
Reisz some other day. The afternoon was 
already well advanced. 

Victor escorted her out upon the ban- 
quette, lifted her parasol, and held it over 
her while he walked to the car with her. 
He entreated her to bear in mind that the 
disclosures of the afternoon were strictly 
confidential. She laughed and bantered 
him a little, remembering too late that she 
should have been dignified and reserved. 



THE AWAKENING 159 

"How handsome Mrs. Pontellier looked!" 
said Madame Lebrun to her son. 

' ' Ravishing_T^_jie^ admitted. *J_The city 
atmosphere has improved her. Some way 
she"doeg n ' I seem -tfReThe same woman." 



XXI 

Some people contended that the reason 
Mademoiselle Reisz always chose apart- 
ments up under the roof was to discourage 
the approach of beggars, peddlars and call- 
ers. There were plenty of windows in her 
little front room. They were for the most 
part dingy, but as they were nearly always 
open it did not make so much difference. 
They often admitted into the room a good 
deal of smoke and soot; but at the same 
time all the light and air that there was 
came through them. From her windows 
could be seen the crescent of the river, the 
masts of ships and the big chimneys of 
the Mississippi steamers. A magnificent 
piano crowded the apartment. In the next 
room she slept, and in the third and last 
she harbored a gasoline stove on which she 
cooked her meals when disinclined to 
descend to the neighboring restaurant. It 
was there also that she ate, keeping her be- 
160 



THE AWAKENING 161 

longings in a rare old buffet, dingy and bat- 
tered from a hundred years of use. 

When Edna knocked at Mademoiselle 
Reisz's front room door and entered, she 
discovered that person standing beside the 
window, engaged in mending or patching 
an old prunella gaiter. The little musician 
laughed all over when she sa~w~Edfla."" Her 
laugh consisted of a contortinn -oL the,„ face, 
and "all the Inuscles of the body. She 
seemecTstrTkmgly homely,~standing there in 
the afternoon light. She still wore the 
shabby lace and the artificial bunch of vio- 
lets on the side of her head. 

"So you remembered me at last," said 
Mademoiselle. "I had said to myself, 
'Ah, bah! she will never come.' " 

"Did you want me to come?" asked 
Edna with a smile. 

"I had not thought much about it," 
answered Mademoiselle. The two had 
seated themselves on a little bumpy sofa 
which stood against the wall. "I am glad, 
however, that you came. I have the water 
boiling back there, and was just about to 
make some coffee. You will drink a cup 



162 THE AWAKENING 

with me. And how is la belle dame? 
Always handsome! always healthy! always 
contented!" She took Edna's hand be- 
tween her strong wiry fingers, holding it 
loosely without warmth, and executing a 
sort of double theme upon the back and 
palm. 

"Yes," she went on; "I sometimes 
thought: 'She will never come. She prom- 
ised as those women in society always do, 
without meaning it. She will not come. 
For I really don't believe you Tike"me7 MrsT 
Ponteilier. 

"I don't know whether I like you or 
not,"„mpljed Edna, gazihg"down at the lit- 
tle woman with a quizzical look. 

The candor of Mrs. Ponteilier' s admission 
greatly pleased Mademoiselle Reisz. 'She 
expressed her gratification by repairing 
forthwith to the region of the gasoline stove 
and rewarding her guest with the promised 
cup of coffee. The coffee and the biscuit 
accompanying it proved very acceptable to 
Edna, who had declined refreshment at 
Madame Lebrun's and was now beginning 
to feel hungry. Mademoiselle set the tray 



THE AWAKENING 163 

which she brought in upon a small table 
near at hand, and seated herself once again 
on the lumpy sofa. 

"I have had a letter from your friend," 
she**" remark edT^s "l!rTe"~putrre'd" a" little cream 
into Edna's cup and handed it to her. 

"My friend?" 

"Yes, your friend B-pher-T- He, w r n t p t o 
me^frOTrrfe hp City u f Mlajlu." ^ 
' "Wrote to you?" refieaterL,JLdna in 



amazement, stirring her coffee absently. 

Yes, to me. Why not? Don't stir all 
the warmth out of your coffee; drink it. 
Though the letter might as well have been 
sent to you; i t was noth ing but Mrs. Pon- 

"Let me see it , ' ' requested the young 
woman, entreatingly. 

"No; a letter concerns no one but the 
person who writes it and the one to whom 
it is written." 

"Haven't you just said it concerned me 
from beginning to end?" 

' ' It w as written about you, not tr yrnii ^<f \ 
'Have you seen Mrs. Pontellier? How is ^\j 
she looking?' he asks. 'As Mrs. Pontellier 



1 64 THE AWAKENING 

says,' or 'as Mrs. Pontellier once said.' 'If 
Mrs. Pontellier should call upon you, play 
for her that Impromptu of Chopin's, my 
favorite. I heard it here a day or two ago, 
but not as you play it. I should like to 
know how it affects her,' and so on, as if he 
supposed we were constantly in each other's 
society." 

"Let me see the letter." 

"Oh, no." 

"Have you answered it?" 

"No." 

"Let me see the letter." 

"No, and again, no." 

"Then play the Impromptu for me." 

"It is growing late; what time do you 
have to be home?" 

"Time doesn't concern me. Your ques- 
tion seems a little rude. Play the Im- 
promptu." 

"But you have told me nothing of your- 
self. What are you doing?" 

"Painting!" laughed Edna. " I am be- 
coming an artist. Think of it!" 

"AhJ_ an artist! You have_ pjretensions, 
Madame. 77 



THE AWAKENING 165 

"Why pretensions? Do you think I could 
not beco me an artist?" 

pi do not know you well enough to say. 
I do not know your talent or your tempera- 
ment. To be an artist includes much; one 
must possess many gifts — absolute gifts — 
which have not been acquired by one's own 
effort. And, moreover, to succeed, the 
artist must possess the courageous soul." 

"What do you mean "By the courageous 
soul?" 

"Courageous, ma foi! The brave soul. 
The soul that dares and defies." 

"Show me the letter and play for me the 
Impromptu. You see that I Jiave persist- 
ence. Does that quality count for anything 
IrTart?" ~~" 

It" counts with a foolish old woman 
whom you have captivated," replied Made- 
moiselle, with her wriggling laugh. 

The letter was right there at hand in the 
drawer of the little table upon which Edna 
had just placed her coffee cup. Mademoi- 
selle opened the drawer and drew forth the 
letter, the topmost one. She placed it in 



166 THE AWAKENING 

Edna's hands, and without further comment 
arose and went to the piano. 

Mademoiselle played a soft interlude. It 
was an improvisation. She sat low at the 
instrument, and the lines of her body settled 
into ungraceful curves and angles that gave 
it an appearance of deformity. Gradually 
and imperceptibly the interlude melted into 
the soft opening minor chords of the Chopin 
Impromptu. 

Edna did not know when the Impromptu 
began or ended. She sat in t he sofa c orner 
readingl^obert's Jgtter by the fading light. 
Mademoiselle had glided from the Chopin 
into the quivering love-notes of Isolde's 
song, and back again to the Impromptu 
with its soulful and poignant longing. 

The shadows deepened in the little room. 
Thejnjxs ic gre& L^sJjnmg^^anjdjEarnla^li c — t u r- 
bulent, insistent, plaintive— and__soit "with 
enTreaty. The shadows grew deerjer. The 
music filled the~roomr Tt~fT6ated out upon 
the night, over the housetops, the crescent 
of the river, losing itself in tjiesjlejice of the 
upper aij\^ 

Edna was sobbing, just as she had wept 



THE AWAKENING 167 

one midnight at Grand Isle when strange, 
new voices awoke in her. She arose in 
some agitation to take her departure. 
"May I come again, Mademoiselle?" she 
asked aFthe threshold. 

"Come whenever you feel like it. Be 
careful; the stairs and landings are dark; 
don't stumble." 

Mademoiselle reentered and lit a candle. 
Robert's letter was on the floor. She 
stooped and picked it up. It was crumpled 
and damp with tears^TvTallemoiselle 
^rriootHebTlhe IelTeFout, "restored it to the 
envelope, and replaced it in the table drawer. 



XXII 

One morning on his way into town Mr. 
Pontellier stopped at the house of his old 
friend and family physician, Doctor Man- 
delet. The Doctor was a semi-retired phy- 
sician, resting, as the saying is, upon his 
laurels. He bore a reputation for wisdom 
rather than skill — leaving the active practice 
of medicine to his assistants and younger 
contemporaries — and was much sought for 
in matters of consultation. A few families, 
united to him by bonds of friendship, he 
still attended when they required the serv- 
ices of a physician. The Pontelliers were 
among these. 

Mr. Pontellier found the Doctor reading 
at the open window of his study. His 
house stood rather far back from the street, 
in the center of a delightful garden, so that 
it was quiet and peaceful at the old gentle- 
man's study window. He was a great 
reader. He stared up disapprovingly over 
1 68 



THE AWAKENING 169 

his eye-glasses as Mr. Pontellier entered, 
wondering who had the temerity to disturb 
him at that hour of the morning. 

"Ah, Pontellier! Not sick, I hope. 
Come and have a seat. What news do you 
bring this morning?" He was quite portly, 
with a profusion of gray hair, and small 
blue eyes which age had robbed of much of 
their brightness but none of their penetra- 
tion. 

"OhlJL'm-jievei^sick, Doctor. You know 
that I come of tough fiber — ^oT that old 
Creole race of Pontelliers that dry up and 
finally blow away. I came to consult— no"7 
not precisely to consult — to talk t o you 
about Edna. I don't know what ails her." 

"Madame Pontellier not well?" marveled 
the Doctor. "Why, I saw her — I think it 
was a week ago — walking along Canal Street, 
the picture of health, it seemed to me." 

"Yes, yes; she seems quite well," said 
Mr. Pontellier, leaning forward and whirling 
his stick between his two hands; "but she 
doesn't act well. She's odd, she's not like 
herself. I can't make her out, and 
thought perhaps you'd help me." 



1 7 o THE AWAKENING 

"How does she act?" inquired the doctor. 

"Well, it isn't easy to explain," said Mr. 
Pontellier, throwing himself back in his 
chair. "She lets the housekeeping go to 
the dickens." 

"Well, well; women are not all alike, 
my dear Pontellier. We've got to con- 
sider — ' ' 

"I know that; I told you I couldn't 
explain. \ Her whole attitude — toward me 
and everybody and everything — has 
changed. You know I have a quick tem- 
per, but I don't want to quarrel or be rude 
to a woman, especially my wife; yet I'm 
driven to it, and feel like ten thousand 
devils after I've made a fool of myself. 
She's making it devilishly uncomfortable for 
me," he went on nervously. "She's got 
some sort of notion in her head concerning 
the eternal rights of women; and — you 
understand — we meet in the morning at 
the breakfast table. " ^J 

The old gentleman lifted his shaggy eye- 
brows, protruded his thick nether lip, and 
tapped the arms of his chair with his cush- 
ioned finger-tips. 



THE AWAKENING 171 

"What have you been doing to her, Pon- 
tellier?" 

"Doing! Par bleu!" 
P'Has she," asked the Doctor, with a 
smile, ' ' has she been associating of late with a 
circle of pseudo-intellectual women — super- 
spiritual superior beings? My wife has 
been telling me about themj" 

"That's the trouble," broke in Mr. Pon- 
tellier, "she hasn't been a ssociating with 
any one.' "She" Has abandoned her Tues- 
days at home, has thrown over all her 
acquaintances, and goes tramping about by 
herself, moping in the street-cars, getting 
in after dark. I tell you she's peculiar. I 
don't like it; I feel a little worried over it." 

This was a new aspect for the Doctor. 
"Nothing hereditary?" he asked, seriously. 
"Nothing peculiar about her family ante- 
cedents, is there?" 

"Oh, no, indeed! She comes of sound 
old Presbyterian Kentucky stock. The old 
gentleman, her father, I have heard, used to 
atone for his week-day sins with his Sunday 
devotions. I know for a fact, that his race 
horses literally ran away with the prettiest 



K 



172 THE AWAKENING 

bit of Kentucky farming land I ever laid 
eyes upon. Margaret — you know Mar- 
garet — she has all the Presbyterianism 
undiluted. And the youngest is something 
of a vixen. By the way, she gets married in 
a couple of weeks from now." 
J "Send your wife up to the wedding," 
\\ exclaimed the Doctor, foreseeing a happy 
/^Solution. "Let her stay among her own 
people for a while; it will do her good." 

"That's what I want her to do. __ She 
j won't go to the marriage^ She says a. wejj- 
ding is j}nV~bT~trie == nTost lamentable spec- 
tacles on earthT "Nlre -t hTrTg foTlTwoman 
to ^ay_^o_Jier_husbandJ" exclaimed Mr. 
^ Pontellier, fuming anew at the recollection. 
"Pontellier, " said the Doctor, after a 
moment's reflection, "let your wife alone 
for a while. Don't bother her, and don't 
let her bother you. Woman, my dear friend, 
"tC is a very peculiar and delicate organism — 
a sensitive and highly organized woman, 
such as I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is 
especially peculiar. It would require an in- 
spired psychologist to deal successfully with 
them. And when ordinary fellows like you 



THE AWAKENING 173 

and me attempt to cope with their idiosyn- 
crasies the result is bungling. Most women 
are moody and whimsical. This is some pass- 
ing whim of your wife, due to some cause 
or causes which you and I needn't try to 
fathom. But it will pass happily over, 
especially if you let her alone. Send her 
around to see me." 

"Oh! I couldn't do that; there 'd be no 
reason for it," objected Mr. Pontellier. 

''Then I'll go around and see her," said 
the Doctor. "I'll drop in to dinner some 
evening en bon ami. 1 ' 

"Do! by all means," urged Mr. Pon- 
tellier. "What evening will you come? Say 
Thursday. Will you come Thursday?" he 
asked, rising to take his leave. 

"Very well; Thursd ay. My wife may 
posstBIy have some engagement for me 
Thursday. In case she has, I shall let you 
know. Otherwise, you may expect me." 

Mr. Pontellier turned before leaving to 
say: 

"I am going to New York on business 
very soon. I have a big scheme on hand, 
and want to be on the field proper to pull 



174 THE AWAKENING 

the ropes and handle the ribbons. We'll 
let you in on the inside if you say so, 
Doctor," he laughed. 

"No, I thank you, my dear sir," returned 
the Doctor. "I leave such ventures to you 
younger men with the fever of life still in 
your blood." 

"What I wanted to say," continued Mr. 
Pontellier, with his hand on the knob; "I 
may have ^ to beabsent a goo d while. 
Would you advise mejo take Edna along!" 

' ' Byall means, if she wishes to go. If 
not, leave .hg r'faera,. Don't contradict her. 
The mood will pass, I assure you. It may 
take a month, two, three months — possibly 
longer, but it will pass; have patience." 

"Well, good-by, a jeudi," said Mr. Pon- 
tellier, as he let himself out. 

The Doctor would have liked during the 
course of conversation to ask, "Is there any 
man in the case?" but he knew his Creole 
too well to make such a blunder as that. 

He did not resume his book immediately, 
but sat for a while meditatively looking out 
into the garden. 






XXIII 



Edna's father was in the city, and had 
been with them several days. She was not 
very warmly or deeply attached to him, 
but they had certain tastes in common, 
and when together they were companion- 
able. His coming was in the nature of a 
welcome disturbance; it seemed to furnish_ 
a n ew direction for her em o tion s. . 

He had come to purchase a wedding gift 
for his daughter, Janet, and an outfit for 
himself in which he might make a creditable 
appearance at her marriage. Mr. Pontellier 
had selected the bridal gift, as every one 
immediately connected with him always 
deferred to his taste in such matters. And 
his suggestions on the question of dress — 
which too often assumes the nature of a 
problem — were of inestimable value to his 
father-in-law. But for the past few days 
the old gentleman had been upon Edna's 
hands, and in his society she was becoming 
175 



176 THE AWAKENING 

acquainted with a new set of sensations. 
He had been a colonel in the Confederate 
army, and still maintained, with the title, 
the military bearing which had always 
accompanied it. His hair and mustache 
were white and silky, emphasizing the rug- 
ged bronze of his face. He was tall and 
thin, and wore his coats padded, which gave 
a fictitious breadth and depth to his shoul- 
ders and chest. Edna and her father looked 
very distinguished together, and excited a 
good deal of notice during their perambula- 
tions. Upon his arrival she began by intro- 
ducing him to her atelier and making a 
sketch of him. He took the whole matter 
very seriously. If her talent had been ten- 
fold greater than it was, it would not have 
surprised him, convinced as he was that he 
had bequeathed to all of his daughters the 
germs of a masterful capability, which only 
depended upon their own efforts to be 
directed toward successful achievement. 

Before her pencil he sat rigid and unflinch- 
ing, as he had faced the cannon's mouth in 
days gone by. He resented the intrusion 
of the children, who gaped with wondering 



THE AWAKENING 177 

eyes at him, sitting so stiff up there in their 
mother's bright atelier. When they drew 
near he motioned them away with an ex- 
pressive action of the foot, loath to disturb 
the fixed lines of his countenance, his arms, 
or his rigid shoulders. 

Edna, anxious to entertain him, invited 
Mademoiselle Reisz to meet him, having 
promised him a treat in her piano playing; 
but Mademoiselle declined the invitation. 
So together they attended a soiree musicale 
at the Ratignolle's. Monsieur and Madame 
Ratignolle made much of the Colonel, 
installing him as the guest of honor and 
engaging him at once to dine with them the 
following Sunday, or any day which he 
might select. Madame coquetted with him 
in the most captivating and naive manner, 
with eyes, gestures, and a profusion of com- 
pliments, till the Colonel's old head felt 
thirty years younger on his padded shoul- 
ders. Edna marveled, not comprehend- 
ing. She herself was almost devoid of 
coquetry. 

There were one or two men whom she 
observed at the soiree musicale; but she 



178 THE AWAKENING 

would never have felt moved to any kitten- 
ish display to attract their notice — to any 
feline or feminine wiles to express herself 
toward them. Their personality attracted 

her in an _agreeable way! ""Her fancy 

selected them , and she wa^gla^when'Eriuir 
in the m usic gave them an opportunity to 
meet her and talk with Tier. OTterTon 
the street the^Tance of strange eyes had 
lingered in her memory, and sometimes had 
disturbed her. 

Mr. Pontellier did not attend these soirees 
musicales. He considered them bourgeois, 
and found more diversion at the club. To 
Madame Ratignolle he said the music dis- 
pensed at her soirees was too "heavy," too 
far beyond his untrained comprehension. 
His excuse flattered her. But she disap- 
proved of Mr. Pontellier's club, and she 
was frank enough to tell Edna so. 

"It's a pity Mr. Pontellier doesn't stay 
home more in the evening6. I think you 
would be more — well, if you don't mind 
my saying it — more united, if he did." 

" Oh! dear no!" said Edna, with a blank 
I00K in her eyes. "What should I do if he 



-*> 



THE AWAKENING 179 

fitfi Y Pf 1 h r»mp? \ Ve wouldn't hav e anything 
t o_sav to each o th er." 

She had not much of anything to say to 
her father, for that matter; but he did not 
antagonize her. She discovered that he 
interested her, though "she realized that he 
might not interest her long; and for the first 
time in her life she felt as if she were thor- 
oughly acquainted with him. He kept her 
busy serving him and ministering to his 
wants. It amused her tb^Hcujso, — She 
would not permit a servant or one of the 
children to do anything for him which she 
might do herself. Her husband noticed, 
and thought it was the expression of a deep 
filial -attachment which he had never sus- 
pected. 

The Colonel drank numerous "toddies" 
during the course of the day, which left 
him, however, imperturbed. He was an 
expert at concocting strong drinks. He 
had even invented some, to which he had 
given fantastic names, and for whose manu- 
facture he required diverse ingredients that it 
devolved upon Edna to procure for him. 

When Doctor Mandelet dined with the 



180 THE AWAKENING 

Pontelliers on Thursday he could^jacern in _ 
Mrs. Pontellier no trace of that morbid con- 
ditiorTwhich her husband had reported _to 
him. She was excited and in a manner 
radiant. She and her father had been to 
the race course, and their thoughts when 
they seated themselves at table were still 
occupied with the events of the afternoon, 
and their talk was still of the track. The 
Doctor had not kept pace with turf affairs. 
He had certain recollections of racing in 
what he called "the good old times" when 
the Lecompte stables flourished, and he drew 
upon this fund of memories so that he might 
not be left out and seem wholly devoid of 
the modern spirit. But he failed to impose 
upon the Colonel, and was even far from 
impressing him with this trumped-up knowl- 
edge of bygone days. Edna had staked 
her father on his last venture, with the most 
gratifying results to both pf them. Besides, 
they had met some very charming people, 
according to the Colonel's impressions. 
Mrs. Mortimer Merriman and Mrs. James 
Highcamp, who were there with Alcee 
Arobin, had joined them and had enlivened 



THE AWAKENING 181 

the hours in a fashion that warmed him to 
think of. 

Mr. Pontellier himself had no particular 
leaning toward horse-racing, and was even 
rather inclined to discourage it as a pastime, 
especially when he considered the fate of 
that blue-grass farm in Kentucky. He 
endeavored, in a general way, to express a 
particular disapproval, and only succeeded 
in arousing the ire and opposition of his 
father-in-law. A pretty dispute followed, 
in which Edna warmly espoused her father's 
cause and the Doctor remained neutral. 

He observed his hostess attentively from 
under his shaggy brows, and noted a subtle 
change which had transformed her from the 
listless woman he had known into a being 
who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with 
the forces of life. Her speech was warm 
and energetic. There was no repression in 
her glance or gesture. She reminded him 
of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in 
the" sun. 

The dinner was excellent. The claret was 
warm and the champagne was cold, and 
under their beneficent influence the threat- 



I»2 



THE AWAKENING 



ened unpleasantness melted and vanished 
with the fumes of the wine. 

Mr. Pontellier warmed up and grew 
reminiscent. He told some amusing plan- 
tation experiences, recollections of old Iber- 
ville and his youth, when he hunted 
'possum in company with some friendly 
darky; thrashed the pecan trees, shot the 
grosbec, and roamed the woods and fields 
in mischievous idleness. 

The Colonel, with little sense of humor 
and of the fitness of things, related a somber 
episode of those dark and bitter days, in 
which he had acted a conspicuous part and 
always formed a central figure. Nor was 
the Doctor happier in his selection, when he 
told the old, ever new and curious story of the 
waning of a woman's love, seeking strange, 
new channels, only to return to its legitimate 
source after days of fierce unrest. It was 
one of the many little human documents 
which had been unfolded to him during his 
long career as a physician. The story did 
not seem especially to impress Edna. §he 
had one of her own to tell, of a woman whet 
pad3TecT~away withjier lover one night in a 



THE AWAKENING 183 

pirogue and never came back. They were 
lost amid the BaratariaiTlsIands, and no one 
ever heard of them or found trace of them 
from that day to this. It was a pure inven- 
tion. She said that Madame Antoine had 
related it to her. That, also, was an inven- 
tion. Perhaps it was a dream she had had. 
But every glowing word seemed real to 
those who listened. They could feel the hot 
breath of the Southern night ; they could 
hear the long sweep of the pirogue through 
the glistening moonlit water, the beating of 
birds' wings, rising startled from among the 
reeds in the salt-water pools; they could 
see the faces of the lovers, pale, close 
together, rapt in oblivious forgetfulness, 
drifting into the unknown. 

The champagne was cold, and its subtle 
fumes played fantastic tricks with Edna's 
memory that night. 

Outside, away from the glow of the fire 
and the soft lamplight, the night was chill 
and murky. The Doctor doubled his old- 
fashioned cloak across his breast as he strode 
home through the darkness. He knew his 
fellow-creatures better than most men: 



1 84 THE AWAKENING 

knew that inner life which so seldom unfolds 
itself to unanointed eyes. He was sorry he 
had accepted Pontellier's invitation. He 
was growing old, and beginning to need rest 
and an imperturbed spirit. He did _n.ot- 
want the secrets of. other Jives thrust upon 
him. *" 

~~ tnr Ino£e.J£- isn-'4-Arobin," he muttered 
to himself as he walked. "I hopjt.- to 
heaven it isn't Alcee Arobin." 



9 r\ 



XXIV 



Edna and her father had a warm, and 
almost violent dispute upon the subject of 
her refusal to attend her sister's wedding. 
Mr. Pontellier declined to interfere, to 
interpose either his influence or his author- 
ity. He was following Doctor Mandelet's 
advice, and letting her do as she liked. 
The Colonel reproached his daughter for 
her lack of filial kindness and respect, her 
want of sisterly affection and womanly con- 
sideration. His arguments were labored 
and unconvincing. He doubted if Janet 
would accept any excuse — forgetting that 
Edna had offered none. ,JHe doubted if 
Janet woj^_ever_srjeak to her again, and he 
was sure Margaret would not 

Edna was frlari tn be rirl of her father 
when he finally took himself orT~with his 
wedding garments and TiIs'T5ridal gifts, with 
his padded shoulders, his Bible reading, his 
"toddies" and ponderous oaths. 
185 



186 THE AWAKENING 

Mr. Pontellier followed him closely. He 
meant to stop at the wedding on his way to 
New York and endeavor by every means 
which money and love could devise to atone 
somewhat for Edna's incomprehensible 
action. 

: You are too lenient, too lenient by far, 
Leonce," asserted the Colonel. "Author- 
ity, coercion are what is needed. Put your 
foot down good and hard ; the only way to 
janage a wife. Take my word for it." 

The Colonel was perhaps unaware that he 
had'" coerced his^~wnT~wffe Into her grave. 
Mr. Pontellier had a vague suspicion of It 
which he thought it needless to mention at 
that late day. 

Edna was not so consciously gratified at 
her husband's leaving home as she had been 
over the departure of her father. As the 
day approached when he was to leave her 
for a comparatively long stay, she grew 
melting and affectionate, remembering his 
many acts of consideration and his repeated 
expressions of an ardent attachment. She 
was solicitous about his health and his wel- 
fare. She bustled around, looking after his 



THE AWAKENING 187 

clothing, thinking about heavy underwear, 
quite as Madame Ratignolle would have 
done under similar circumstances. She_ 
cried when he went away, calling him her 
d earTgood friend, and sh e" was"q uTfe Te r f am 
she would grow^ lonely before very long and 
go to join Him In ISTew YorkT - 

jSut after all, a radiant peace settled upon 
her when she at last foundKersel F alone . 
Even~th"e~children were gone. Old Madame 
Pontellier had come herself and carried 
them off to Iberville with their quadroon. 
The old madame did not venture to say she \M> 

was afraid they would be neglected during 
Leonce's absence; she hardly ventured to 
think so. She was hungry for them — even 
a little fierce in her attachment. She did 
not want them to be wholly "children of 
the pavement," she always said when beg- 
ging to have them for a space. She wished.^ \^ \ 
them to know the country, wi-th*~tts^treamsy 
it's fields, its woods, its freedom, so deli- 
cious to the young. She wished themjx^, 
taste something- of ■ -theJife^their^ father had 
lived and known andM^vejd_^heja_hej_too^ 
was a little child . 






- 



. 



188 THE AWAKENING 

When Edna was at last alone, she 
breathed a big, genuine sigh of relief. A 
feeling that was unfamiliar but very deli- 
cious came over her. She walked all 
through the house, from one room to an- 
other, as if inspecting it for the first time. 
She tried the various chairs and lounges, as 
if she had never sat and reclined upon them 
before. And she perambulated around the 
outside of the house, investigating, looking 
to see if windows and shutters were secure 
and in order. The flowers were like new 
acquaintances; she approached them in a 
familiar spirit, and made herself at home 
among them. The garden walks were 
damp, and Edna called to the maid to bring 
out her rubber sandals. And there she 
stayed, and stooped, digging around the 
plants, trimming, picking dead, dry leaves. 
The children's little dog came out, interfer- 
ing, getting in her way. She scolded him, 
laughed at him, played with him. The gar- 
den smelled so good and looked so pretty 
in the afternoon sunlight. Edna plucked 
all the bright flowers she could find, and 



THE AWAKENING 189 

went into the house with them, she and the 
little dog. 

Even the kitchen assumed a sudden inter- 
esting character which she had never before 
perceived. She went in to give directions to 
the cook, to say that the butcher would 
have to bring much less meat, that they 
would require only half their usual quantity 
of bread, of milk and groceries. She told 
the cook that she herself would be greatly 
occupied during Mr. Pontellier's absence, 
and she begged her to take all thought and 
responsibility of the larder upon her own 
shoulders. 

That night Edna dined alone. The can- 
delabra, with a few candles in the center of 
the table, gave all the light she needed. 
Outside the circle of light in which she sat, 
the large dining-room looked solemn and 
shadowy. The cook, placed upon her met- 
tle, served a delicious repast — a luscious 
tenderloin broiled a point. The wine tasted 
good; the marron glace seemed to be just 
what she wanted. It was so pleasant, too, 
to dine in a comfortable peignoir. 

She thought a little sentimentally about 



igo 



THE AWAKENING 



Leonce and the children , and _jj:p"' w H^ 
„ what thevwere d oingj As she gave a 
dainty scrap or two to the doggie, she 
talked intimately to him about Etienne and 
Raoul. He was beside himself with aston- 
ishment and delight over these companion- 
able advances, and showed his appreciation 
by his little quick, snappy barks and a lively 
agitation. 
\/ Then Edna sat in the libraryafter dinner 
Y^Trejidj ^ersonTin ri^ She 

realized that she had neglected her reading, 
and determined to start anew upon a course 
of improving studies, now that her time was 
completely her own to do with as she liked. 
After a refreshing bath, Edna went to 
bed. And as she snuggled comfortably 
beneath the eiderdown a sense of restful- 
ness invaded her, such as she had not known 
before. 






XXV 

When the weather was dark and cloudy 
Edna could not work. SKe neecTecTThe sun 
to rrieIT6^^nd~t"einper her mood to the 
sticking point. She had reached a stage 
when she seemed to be no longer feeling 
her way, working, when in the humor, with 
sureness and ease. And being devoid of 
ambition, and striving not toward accom- 
plishment, she drew satisfaction from the 
work in itself. 

Oa .rainy or -me4ancholy_days _ .Edna.. went 
out a nd sought the society of the friends 
she had made at Gxand. Isle. Or else she 
stayed indoors and nursed a mood with 
which she was becoming too familiar for her 
own comfort and peace of mind. It was 
not despair; but it seemed to her as if life 
w_ere passing by, leaving its promise broken 
and unfulfilled. Yet there were other days 
when she listened, was ied on and deceived 
191 



192 THE AWAKENING 

by fresh promises which her youth held out 
to her. 

She went_ again to the races, and again. 
Alcee Arobin and Mrs. Highcamp called for 
her one bright afternoon in Arobin' s drag. 
Mrs. Highcamp was a worldly but unaf- 
fected, intelligent, slim, tall blonde woman 
in the forties, with an indifferent manner 
and blue eyes that stared. She had a 
daughter who served her as a pretext for 
cultivating the society of young men of 
fashion. Alcee Arobin was one of them. 
He was a familiar figure at the race course, 
the opera, the fashionable clubs. There 
was a perpetual smile in his eyes, which sel- 
dom failed to awaken a corresponding cheer- 
fulness in any one who looked into them 
and listened to his good-humored voice. 
His manner was quiet, and at times a little 
insolent. He possessed a good figure, a 
pleasing face, not overburdened with depth 
of thought or feeling; and his dress was 
that of the conventional man of fashion. 

He admired Edna extravagantly, after 
meeting her at the races with her father. 
He had met her before on other occasions, 



THE AWAKENING 193 

but she had seemed to him unapproachable 
until that day. It was at his instigation 
that Mrs. Highcamp called to ask her to go 
with them to the Jockey Club to witness 
the turf event of the season. 

There were_ppssibly^a~few-4rack..men out 
there who knew the race horse as well as 
Edna, but there was certainly none who 
knew it better. She sat between her two 
companions as one having authority to 
speak. She laughed at Arobin's preten- 
sions, and deplored Mrs. Highcamp's igno- 
rance. The jace horse was a friend anc 



intimate associate of her childhood. The 
atmosphere of the stables and the breath of 
the blue grass paddock revived in her mem- 
ory and lingered in her nostrils. She did 
not perceive that she was talking like her 
father as the sleek geldings ambled in re- 
view before them. She played for very 
high stakes, and fortune favored her. The 
fever of the ga me flamed in her cheeks a nd^ 
'Fyes, anQntTgot into her blood and into her 
bram like an intoxicant. ~ People turned 
thetrTiea'ds^EcrTooir at her, and more than 
one lent an attentive ear to her utterances, 



i 9 4 THE AWAKENING 

hoping thereby to secure the elusive but 
ever-desired "tip." Arobin caught the 
contagion of excitement which drew him to 
Edna like a magnet. Mrs. Highcamp 
remained, as usual, unmoved, with her indif- 
ferent stare and uplifted eyebrows. 

Edna stayed and dined with Mrs. High- 
camp upon being urged to do so. Arobin 
also remained and sent away his drag. 

The dinner was quiet and uninteresting, 
save for the cheerful efforts of Arobin to 
enliven things. Mrs. Highcamp deplored 
the absence of her daughter from the races, 
and tried to convey to her what she had 
missed by going to the "Dante reading" 
instead of joining them. The girl held a 
geranium leaf up to her nose and said noth- 
ing, but looked knowing and noncommittal. 
Mr. Highcamp was a plain, bald-headed 
man, who only talked under compulsion. 
He was unresponsive. Mrs. Highcamp was 
full of delicate courtesy and consideration 
toward her husband. She addressed most 
of her conversation to him at table. They 
sat in the library after dinner and read the 
evening papers together under the drop- 



THE AWAKENING 195 

light; while the younger people went into 
the drawing-room near by and talked. Miss 
Highcamp played some selections from 
Grieg upon the piano. She seemed to have 
apprehended all of the composer's coldness 
and none of his poetry. While Edna 
listened she could not help wonderin g if 
she had lost her taste for music. 

~When the time came for her to go home, 
Mr. Highcamp grunted a lame offer to escort 
her, looking down at his slippered feet with 
tactless concern. It was Arobin who took 
her home. The car ride was long, and it 
was late when they reached Esplanade 
Street. Arobin asked permission to enter 
for a second to light his cigarette — his 
match safe was empty. He filled his match 
safe, but did not ligh t his cigarette u ntil he 
1frft-jgrr7"5TFerH srie had expre ssed her willing- 
ness to g o to the races with him agaim 

Ednawas neither tired nor sleepy. She 
was hungry again, for the Highcamp dinner, 
though of excellent quality, had lacked 
abundance. She rummaged in the larder 
and brought forth a slice of "Gruyere" and 
some crackers. She opened a bottle of 



196 THE AWAKENING 

beer which she found in the ice-box. c Edna 
felt e xtremely restless and excited. She 
vacantly hummed a fantastic tune as she 
poked at the wood embers on the hearth and 
munched a cracker. 

She wanted something to happen — some- 
thing, anyfrltrrg^ — she - rfid~noFlaiow what. 
She regretted thaTsHe hacTnot made Arobin 
stay a half hour to taTTTover the horses with" 
her. She counted the money she had won. 
But tfiere was nothing else to do, so she 
went to bed, and tossed there for hours in a 
sort of monotonous agitation. 

In the middle of the night she remem- 
bered that she had forgotten to write her 
regular letter to her husband; and she 
decided to do so next day and tell him 
about her afternoon at the Jockey Club. 
She lay wide awake composing a letter 
which was nothing like the one which she 
wrote next day. When the maid awoke 
her in the morning Edna was dreaming of 
Mr. Highcamp playing the piano at the 
entrance of a music store on Canal Street, 
while his wife was saying to Alcee Arobin, 
as they boarded an Esplanade Street car: 



THE AWAKENING 197 

"What a pity that so much talent has 
been neglected! but I must go." 

When, a few days later, Alcee Arobin 
again called for Edna in his drag, Mrs. 
Highcamp was not with him. He said they 
would pick her up. But as that lady had 
not been apprised of his intention of pick- 
ing her up, she was not at home. The 
daughter was just leaving the house to 
attend the meeting of a branch Folk Lore 
Society, and regretted that she could not 
accompany them. Arobin appeared non- 
plused, and asked Edna if there were any 
one else she cared to ask. 

She did not deem it worth while to go in 
search of any of the fashionable acquaint- 
ances from whom she had withdrawn her- 
self. She thought of Madame Ratignolle, 
but knew that her fair friend did not leave 
the house, except to take a languid walk 
around the block with her husband after 
nigktiall. Mademoiselle Reisz would have 
laugKecn at such a request from Edna, 
maaame Lebrun might have enjoyed the 
outing, but for some reason Edna did not 



198 THE AWAKENING 

want her. So they went alone^.jshe.-and 
Arobin. *<" 

The afternoon was intensely interesting 
to her. The excitement came back upon 
her like a remittent fever. Her talk grew 
familiar and confidential. It was nojabor 
to become intimate with Arobin. His man- 
ner invited easy confidence." The prelimi- 
nary stage of becoming acquainted was one 
which he always endeavored to ignore when 
a pretty and engaging woman was con- 
cerned. 

He stayed and dined with Edna. He 
stayed and sat beside the wood fire. They 
laughed and talked ; and before it was time 
to go he was telling her_^ow^d[fferent life 
might have beenjf _Jie,hacLJoio^im.Jier_years 
before. With ingenuous frankness he spoke 
of what a wicked, ill-disciplined boy he had 
been, and impulsively drew up his cuff to 
exhibit upon his wrist the scar from a saber 
cut which he had received in a duel outside 
of Paris when he was nineteen. She touched 
his hand as she scanned the red cicatrice on 
the inside of his white wrist. A quick im- 
pulse that was somewhat spasmodic impelled 



THE AWAKENING 199 

her fingers to close in a sort of clutch upon 
his hand. He felt the pressure of her 
pointed nails in the flesh of his palm. 

She arose hastily and walked toward the 
mantel. 

"The sight of a wound or scar always 
agitates and sickens me," she said. "I 
shouldn't have looked at it." 

"I beg your pardon," he entreated, fol- 
lowing her; "it never occurred to me that it 
might be repulsive." 

fie stood close to her, and the effrontery 
in his eyes repelled the old, vanishing self in 
her, yet drew all her awakening sensuous- 
ness. He saw enough in her face to impel 
him to take her hand and hold it while he 
said his lingering good night. 

"Will you go to the races again?" he_ 
aske"d. 

"No," she said. "I've had enough of 
the races. T don't want to lose all the 
mohey~T've won, and I've got to work 
when the weather is bright, instead of — " 

"Yes; work; to be sure. You promised 
to show me your work. What morning may 
I come up to" your atelier? To-morrow?'^ 



200 THE AWAKENING 

"No!" 

"Day after?" 

"No, no." 

"Oh, please don't refuse me! I know 
something of such things. I might help 
you with a stray suggestion or two." 

"No. Good night. Why don't you go 
after you have said goodnight? I don't 
like y ou," sh~ e went on in a high , excited 
pitch, attempting to draw away her hand. 
She felt that her words lacked dignity and 
sincerity, and she knew that he felt it. 

"I'm sorry you don't like me. I'm sorry 
1 offended you. How have I offended you? 
^ What have I done? Can't you forgive 
V"^, y me?" Arwj_he, henf and ..pressed Tns .jj'jjfL.. 

o L-Cf) upon her hand as if he wished never more 

\-^ K, to withdraw them. 

r3r "Mr. Arobin," she complained, "I'm 

greatly upset by the excitement of the 
afternoon; I'm not myself. My manner 
must have misled you in some way. I 
wishyou^a-gp^ pj.ease. She spoke in a 
monotonous, dull tone. He took his hat 
from the table, and stood with eyes turned 



THE AWAKENING 



201 



from her, looking into the dying fire. For 
a moment or two he kept an impressive 
silence. 

"Your manner has not misled me, Mrs. 
Pontellier, ' ' he said finally.""' "" ""My own 
emotions have done thatT ^couldn't help it. 
When I'm near you, how could I help 
it? Don't think anything of it, don't bother, 
please. You see, I go when you command 
me. If you wish me to stay away, I shall 
do so. If you let me come back, I — oh!j 
you will let me come back?" 

He cast one appealing glance at her,, tc 
which she made no response. Alc£e Aro- 
bin's manner was so genuine that it often 
deceived even himself. 

Edna did not care or think whether it 
were genuine or not. When she was alone 
she looked mechanically at the back of her 
hand which he had kissed so warmly. Then 
she leaned her head down on the mantel- 
piece. She X§It,.-J.Qffiewjia^_like a woman 
who in a moment of passion is betrayed 
into an act_ of infidelity, and jeaHzes the 
significance of the act without being wholly 



\ 




202 THE AWAKENING 

awakened from its glamour. The thought 
was passing vaguely through her mind, 
"What would he think?" 

She did_not mean her husband jshe_ was 
thinking of Robert Lebrun. Her husband 
seemed to her now like a person whom she 
had married without love as an excuse. 

She lit a candle and went up to her room. 
A lee' e Arobin was absolutely nothing to her. 
Yet his presence, his manners, the warmth 
of his glances, and above all the touch of 
his lips upon her handjiad^acted ljkg_ajiar- 
cotic upon her. 

She slept a languorous sleep, interwoven 
with vanishing dreams. 



O^ 7 



XXVI 

Alc£e Arobin wrote Edna an elaborate 
note of apology, palpitant with sincerity. 
"It embarrassed her; for in a cooler, quieter 
moment it appeared to her absuid that she 
should have taken his action so seriously, 
so dramatically. She felt sure that the sig- 
nificance of the whole occurrence had lain 
in her own self-consciousness. If she 
ignored his note it would give undue im- 
portance to a trivial affair. If she replied 
to it in a serious spirit it would still leave 
in his mind the impression that she had in a 
susceptible moment yielded to his influence. 
After all, it was no great matter to have one's 
hand kissed. She was provoked at his hav- 
ing written the apology. Sjiejmswered in as 
light and Jbantering a spirit_ as_shefancied it 
cleserved, and said she would be glad to 
nliv~e~hlm look in upon her at work when- 
eVeT~h~e~felt the inclination and his business 
gave him the opportunity. 



204 THE AWAKENING 

He responded at once by presenting him- 
self at her home with all his disarming 
naivete. And then there was scarcely a 
day which followed that she did not see him 
or was not reminded of him. He was pro- 
lific in pretexts. His attitude became one 
of good-humored subservience and tacit 
adoration. He was ready at all times to 
submit to her moods, which were as often 
kind as they were cold. She grew accus- 
tomed to him. They became^i ptuaate and — - 

by leaps. He sometimes talked in a way 
that astonished her at first and brought the 
crimson into her face ; in a way that pleased 
her at last, appealing to the animalism that 
stirred impatiently within her. 

There was nothing which so quieted the 
turmoil of Edna's senses as a visit to Made- 
moiselle Reisz. It was then, in the pres- 
ence of that personaTTty~wriIch was orTensivF 
to_ he^-tliaLJJie^ woman, by her divine art, 
seemed to reach Edna's spirit; arrtrseHrf Fee. 

It was misty, with heavy, lowering atmos- 
phere, one afternoon, when Edna climbed the 
stairs to the pianist's apartments under 



THE AWAKENING 205 

the roof. Her clothes were dripping with 
moisture. She felt chilled and pinched as 
she entered the room. Mademoiselle was 
poking at a rusty stove that smoked a little 
and warmed the room indifferently. She 
was endeavoring to heat a pot of chocolate 
on the stove. The room looked cheerless 
and dingy to Edna as she entered. A bust 
of Beethoven, covered with a hood of dust, 
scowled at her from the mantelpiece. 

"Ah! here comes the sunlight!" ex- 
claimed Mademoiselle, rising from her knees 
before the stove. "Now it will be warm 
and bright enough ; I can let the fire 
alone." 

She closed the stove door with a bang, 
and approaching, assisted in removing 
Edna's dripping mackintosh. 

"You are cold ; you look miserable. The 
chocolate will soon be hot. But would you 
rather have a taste of brandy? I have 
scarcely touched the bottle which you 
brought me for my cold." A piece of red 
flannel was wrapped around Mademoiselle's 
throat ; a stiff neck compelled her to hold 
her head on one side. 



206 THE AWAKENING 

"I will take some brandy," said Edna, 
shivering as she removed her gloves and 
overshoes. She drank the liquor from the 
glass as a man would have done. Then 
flinging herself upon the uncomfortable sofa 
she said, ' ' Mad emoiselle, I am going to move 
away from my ho use on Esplanade Stre et.' 

"Ah!" ejaculated the musician, neither 
surprised nor especially interested. Noth- 
ing ever seemed to astonish her very much. 
She was endeavoring to adjust the bunch 
of violets which had become loose from its 
fastening in her hair. Edna drew her down 
upon the sofa, and taking a pin from her 
own hair, secured the shabby artificial flow- 
ers in their accustomed place. 

"Aren't you astonished?" 

"Passably. Where are you going? to 
New York? to Iberville? to your father in 
Mississippi? where?" 

"Just two steps away," laughed Edna, 
"in a little f oj^TonnL house around the 
corner. It looks so cozy, so inviting and 
restful, whenever I pass by; and it's for 
rent. I' m tired looking afi-pc — that_^big 
ho use. I t__j iever seemed like m ine, any- 



THE AWAKENING 207 

way — like hom e. It's too much trouble. 
I have to keep too many servants. I am 
tired bothering with them." 

"That is not your true reason, ma belle. 
There is no use in telling me lies. I don't 
know your reason, but you have not told 
me the truth." Edna did not protest or 
endeavor to justify herself. 

"The house, the money that provides for 
it, are not mine. Isn't that enough reason?" 

"They are your husband's," returned 
Mademoiselle, with a shrug and a malicious 
elevation of the eyebrows. 

"Oh! I see there is no deceiving you. 

Then let _mj_teTT22HlI^OEIll£SEi£i£ e ' "*^ 
have a little money of my own from my 
mother's estate, which my father sends me 
by driblets. Iwon a large sjumjthis winter 
on the races, and I am beginning to sell 
my sketches. I^ajdQnreJs more and mo re 
pleased with rny_Jwork; he says it grows in 
force and individuality. I cannot judge of 
that myself, but I feel that I have gained in 
ease and confidence. H-Gwever., as I saicU 
I have sold ajgood manyJlorovigh^Laidpore. 
I can live in the tiny house for little or 





THE AWAKENING 

nothing, with one servant. Old Celestine, 
who works occasionally for me, says she 
will come stay with me and do my work. 
_I know I shall like it, like the feeling of 
freedom and independence. 
^**What"cloes your husba nd say? " 

"I have not told him yet. I only 
thought of it this morning. He will think 
I am demented, no doubt. Perhaps you 
think so." 

Mademoiselle shook hei head slowly. 
"Your reason is not yet clear to me," she 
said. 

Neither was it quite clear to Edna her- 
self; but it unfolded itself as she sat for a 
while in silence. Instinct had prompted 
her to put away her husband's bounty in 
casting off her allegiance. She did no t 
know ho w it would be when he_ re turned. 
There would have to be an understanding, 
an explanation. Conditions would some 
:£C£s»- way adjust themselves, she felt; but what- 
ever came, she had resolved never again to 
belong to another than herself. 

"I shall give a grand dinner before I 
leave the old house!" Edna exclaimed. 




THE AWAKENING 209 

"You will have to come to it, Mademoi- 
selle. I will give you everything that you 
like to eat and to drink. We shall sing and 
laugh and be merry for once." And she 
uttered a sigh that came from the very 
depths of her being. 

If Mademoiselle happened to have re- j 
ceived a letter from Robert during the! 
interval of Edna's visits, she would give her' 
the letter unsolicited. And she would seat 
herself at the piano and play as her humor 
prompted her while the young woman read 
the letter. 

The little stove was roaring; it was red- 
hot, and the chocolate in the tin sizzled and 
sputtered. Edna went forward and opened 
the stove door, and Mademoiselle rising, 
took a letter from under the bust of Beetho- 
ven and handed it to Edna. 

"Another! so soon!" she exclaimed, her 
eyes filled with delight. "Tell__me, Made- 
moiselle, does he know thaT_JLj5ee JbdsJLet- 
tefs?" 

'""Never in the world! He would be 
angry and would never write to me again if 
he thought so. Does he write to you? 



210 THE AWAKENING 

Never a line. Qoes he send you a message? 
Never a word^ It is because he loves you, 
■ poor foo l, and is trying to forgefy°u7 since 
you are not free to listen to him or to 
belong to him." 

"Why do you show me his letters, 
then?" 

"Haven't you begged for them? Can I 
refuse you anything? Oh! you cannot 
deceive me," and Mademoiselle approached 
her beloved instrument and began to play. 
Edna did not at once read the letter. She 
sat holding it in her hand, while the music 
penetrated her whole being like an efful- 
gence, warming and brightening the dark 
places of her soul. It prepared her for joy 
and exultation. 

"Oh!" she exclaimed, letting the letter 
fall to the floor. "Why did you not tell 
me?" She went and grasped Mademoi- 
selle's hands up from the keys. "Oh! 
unkind! malicious! Why did you not tell 
me?" ~~~ — - 

"That he__3os_jcoming_back? No great 
news, ma foi. I wonder he did not come 
long ago." 



THE AWAKENING 211 

"But when, when?" cried Edna, impa- 
tiently. "He does not say when." 

"He says 'very soon.' You know as 
much about it as I do ; it is all in the let- 
ter." 

" But whvL Why is he coming? Oh, if 
I thought — " and she snatched the letter 
from the floor and turned the pages this 
way and that way, looking for the reason, 
which was left untold. 

"If I were young and in love with a 
man," said Mademoiselle, turning on the 
stool and pressing her wiry hands between 
her knees as she looked down at Edna, who 
sat on the floor holding the letter, "it seems 
to me he would have to be some grand 
esprit; a man with lofty aims and ability to 
reach them ; one who stood high enough 
to attract the notice of his fellow-men. It 
seems to me if I were young and in love I 
should never deem a man of ordinary caliber 
worthy of my devotion." 

"Now it is you who are telling lies and 
seeking to deceive me, Mademoiselle; or 
else you have never been in love, and know 
nothing about it. Why," went on Edna, 



¥ 



< 



212 THE AWAKENING 

clasping her knees and looking up into 
Mademoiselle's twisted face, "dp you sup- 
pose a woman knows why she loves? Does 
she select? Does she say tolierseTff ^Go 
to! Here is a distinguished statesman with 
presidential possibilities; I shalL^roceed to 
fall in love with him.' Or, ' I shall set my 
heart upon this musician, whose fame is on 
every tongue?' Or, 'This financier, who 
controls the world's money markets?' " 

"You are purposely misunderstanding 
me, ma reine. Are you in love with Rob* 
ert?" 

"Yes," said Edna. It was the first time 
she had admitted it, and a glow overspread 
her face, blotching it with red spots. 

"Why?" asked her companion. "Why 
do you love him when you ought not to?" 

Edna, with a motion or two, dragged 
herself on her knees before Mademoiselle 
Reisz, who took the glowing face between 
her two hands. 

"Why? Because his hair is brown and 
grows away from his temples; because he 



\ opens and shuts his eyes, and his nose is a 



THE AWAKENING 213 

little out of drawing; because he has two 
lips and a square chin, and a little finger 
which he can't straighten from having 
played baseball too energetically in his 
youth. Because — " 

"Because you do, in short," laughed 
Mademoiselle. "What will you do when 
he comes back?" she asked. 

^HDo? Nothing, except feel glad and 
happy" to ""Be alive. 

" She ^was already_ gla d and happy to be 
alive at the mere t hought of his return. 
The murky, lowering sky, which had de- 
pressed her a few hours before, seemed 
bracing and invigorating as she splashed 
through the streets on her way home. 

She stopped at a confectioner's and 
ordered a huge box of bonbons for the chil- 
dren in Iberville. She slipped a card in the 
box, on which she scribbled a tender mes- 
sage and sent an abundance of kisses. 

Before dinner in the evening Edna wrote 
a charming letter to her husband, telling 
him of her intention to move for a while 
into the little house around the block, and 



214 THE AWAKENING 

to give a farewell dinner before leaving, 
regretting that he was not there to share it, 
to help her out with the menu and assist 
her in entertaining the guests. Her letter 
was brilliant and brimming with cheerful- 
ness. 



-) 



XXVII 

"What is the matter with you?" asked 
Arobin that evening. "I never found you 
in such a happy mood." Edna was tired 
by that time, and was reclining on the 
lounge before the fire. 

"Don't you know the weather prophet 
has told us we shall see the sun pretty 
soon?" 

"Well, that ought to be reason enough," 
he acquiesced. "You wouldn't give me 
another if I sat here all night imploring 
you." He sat close to her on a low 
tabouret, and as he spoke his fingers lightly 
touched the hair that fell a little over hrer 

forehead. _SHe"li^ed~the touch of his fingers 

through her hair, and closed her eyes sensi- 
tively. 

"One of these days," she said, "I'm 
going to pull myself together for a while 
and think — try_t o determi ne what character 
of a woman I ^as^J^r i _qa i ^idly Ju l__don , t 
215 



216 THE AWAKENING 

know. By all the codes which I am 
acquainted with, I am a devilishly wicked 
specimen of the_s£x~ But some way I can't 
convince myself that I am. I must think 
about it." 

"Don't. What's the use? Why should 
you bother thinking about it when I can 
tell you what manner of woman you are." 
His fingers strayed occasionally down to her 
warm, smooth cheeks and firm chin, which 
was growing a little full and double. 

"Oh, yes! You will tell me that I am 
adorable; everything that is captivating. 
Spare yourself the effort." 

"No; I shan't tell you anything of the 
sort, though I shouldn't be lying if I did." 

"Do you know Mademoiselle Reisz?" she 
asked irrelevantly. 

"The pianist? I know her by sight. 
I've heard her play." 

"She says queer things sometimes in a 
bantering way that you don't notice at the 
time and you find yourself thinking about 
afterward." 

"For instance?" 

"Well, for instance, when I left her to- 



THE AWAKENING 217 

day\| she put her arms around me and felt 
my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were 
strong, she said. 'The bird that would 
soar above the level plain of tradition and , 
prejudice must have strong wings. It is a 
sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, j I 
exhausted, fluttering-hack to earth.' '| 

"Whither would you soar?" / 

"I'm not thinking of any extraordinary 
flights. I only half comprehend her." 

"I've heard she's partially demented," 
said Arobin. 

"She seems to me wonderfully sane," 
Edna replied. 

"I'm told she's extremely disagreeable 
and unpleasant. Why have you introduced 
her at a moment when I desired to talk of 
you?" 

' ' Oh ! talk of me if you like, ' ' cried Edna, 
clasping her hands beneath her head; "but 
let me think of something else while you 
do." 

"I'm jealous of your thoughts to-night. 
They're making you a little kinder than 
usual; but some way I feel as if they were 
wandering, as if they were not here with 



218 THE AWAKENING 

me." She only looked at him and smiled. 
His eyes were very near. He leaned upon 
the lounge with an arm extended across 
her, while the other hand still rested upon 
her hair. They c ontinued silently to look 
into each ot her's eyes. When he leaned 
forward and kissed her, she clasped his 
head r holding-his lips to hers. 

It was the first kiss of her life to whirH 
/ her nature had really responded. It w as a_ 
(y-s flaming torch that kindled desire. 



I 



XXVIII 

KT Edna cried a little that night after Arobin } 
(left her. It was only one phase of the/ 
^multitudinous emotions which had assailed? 
vjjer. There was with her an overwhelming \ 
feeling of irresponsibility. There was the^ 
sKocIc of the unexpected and the unaccus- 
tomed. There was her husband's reproach 
looking at her from the external things 
around her which he had provided for her 
external existence. There was Robert's 
reproach making itself felt by a quicker, 
fiercer, more overpowering love, which had 
awakened within her toward him. Above 
all, there was understanding. She felt as 
if a mist had been lifted from her eyes, 
enabling her to look upon and comprehend 
the significance of life, that monster made 
up of beauty and brutality. But among the 
conflicting sensations which assailed her, 
there was neither shame nor remorse. There 
was a dull pang of regret because it was not 
the kiss of love which had inflamed her, 
because it was not love which had held this 
cup of life to her lips. 
219 



XXIX 

Without even waiting for an answer from 
her husband regarding his opinion or wishes 
in the matter, Edna hastened her prepara- 
tions for quitting her home on Esplanade 
Street and moving into the little house 
around the block. A feverish anxiety 
attended her every action in that direction. 
There was no moment of deliberation, no 
interval of repose between the thought and 
its fulfillment. Early upon the morning 
following those hours passed in Arobin's 
society, Edna set about securing her new 
abode and hurrying her arrangements for 
occupying it. Within the precincts of her 
home she felt like one who has entered and 
lingered within the portals of some forbid- 
den temple in which a thousand muffled 
voices bade her begone. 

Whatever was her own in the house, 

everything which she had acquired aside 

from her husband's bounty, she caused 

to be transported to the other house, sup- 

220 



THE AWAKENING 221 

plying simple and meager deficiencies from 
her own resources. 

Arobin found her with rolled sleeves, 
working in company with the house-maid 
when he looked in during the afternoon. 
She was splendid and robust, and had never 
appeared handsomer than in the old blue 
gown, with a red silk handkerchief knotted 
at random around her head to protect her 
hair from the dust. She was mounted upon 
a high step-ladder, unhooking a picture from 
the wall when he entered. He had found 
the front door open, and had followed his 
ring by walking in unceremoniously. 

"Come down!" he said. "Do you want 
to kill yourself?" She greeted him with af- 
fected carelessness, and appeared absorbed 
in her occupation. 

If he had expected to find her languish- 
ing, reproachful, or indulging in sentimental 
tears, he must have been greatly surprised. 

He was no doubt prepared for any emer- 
gency, ready for any one of the foregoing 
attitudes, just as he bent himself easily and 
naturally to the situation which confronted 
him. 



222 THE AWAKENING 

"Please come down," he insisted, hold- 
ing the ladder and looking up at her. 

"No," she answered; "Ellen is afraid to 
mount the ladder. Joe is working over at 
the 'pigeon house' — that's the name Ellen 
gives it, because it's so small and looks like a 
pigeon house — and some one has to do this. ' ' 

Arobin pulled off his coat, and expressed 
himself ready and willing to tempt fate in 
her place. Ellen brought him one of her 
dust-caps, and went into contortions of 
mirth, which she found it impossible to 
control, when she saw him put it on before 
the mirror as grotesquely as he could. 
Edna herself could not refrain from smiling 
when she fastened it at his request. So it 
was he who in turn mounted the ladder, 
unhooking pictures and curtains, and dis- 
lodging ornaments as Edna directed. When 
he had finished he took off his dust-cap 
and went out to wash his hands. 

Edna was sitting on the tabouret, idly 
brushing the tips of a feather duster along 
the carpet when he came in again. 

"Is there anything more you will let me 
do?" he asked. 



THE AWAKENING 223 

"That is all," she answered. "Ellen can 
manage the rest." She kept the young 
woman occupied in the drawing-room, 
unwilling to be left alone with Arobin. 

"What about the dinner?" he asked; 
"the grand event, the coup cFitat?" 

"It will be day after to-morrow. Why 
do you call it the ' coup d } itatf Oh! it will 
be very fine; all my best of everything — 
crystal, silver and gold, Sevres, flowers, 
music, and champagne to swim in. I'll let 
Leonce pay the bills. I wonder what he'll 
say when he sees the bills." 

"And you ask me why I call it a coup 
d'etat?" Arobin had put on his coat, and 
he stood before her and asked if his cravat 
was plumb. She told him it was, looking 
no higher than the tip of his collar. 

"When do you go to the 'pigeon 
house?' — with all due acknowledgment to 
Ellen." 

"Day after to-morrow, after the dinner. 
I shall sleep there." 

"Ellen, will you very kindly get me a 
glass of water?" asked Arobin. "The dust 
in the curtains, if you will pardon me for 



224 THE AWAKENING 

hinting such a thing, has parched my throat 
to a crisp." 

"While Ellen gets the water," said 
Edna, rising, "I will say good-by and let 
you go. I must get rid of this grime, and 
I have a million things to do and think of." 

"When shall I see you?" asked Arobin, 
seeking to detain her, the maid having left 
the room. 

"At the dinner, of course. You are 
invited." 

"Not before? — not to-night or to-morrow 
morning or to-morrow noon or night? or the 
day after morning or noon? Can't you see 
yourself, without my telling you, what an 
eternity it is?" 

He had followed her into the hall and to 
the foot of the stairway, looking up at her 
as she mounted with her face half turned to 
him. 

"Not an instant sooner," she said. But 
she laughed and looked at him with eyes 
that at once gave him courage to wait and 
made it torture to wait. 



r\ 



XXX 

Though Edna had spoken of the dinner 
as a very grand affair, it was in truth a very 
small affair and very select, in so much as the 
guests invited were few and were selected 
with discrimination. She had counted upon 
an even dozen seating themselves at her 
round mahogany board, forgetting for the 
moment that Madame Ratignolle was to the 
last degree souffrante and unpresentable, 
and not foreseeing that Madame Lebrun 
would send a thousand regrets at the last 
moment. So there were only ten, after all, 
which made a cozy, comfortable number. 

There were Mr. and Mrs. Merriman, a 
pretty, vivacious little woman in the thir- 
ties; her husband, a jovial fellow, something 
of a shallow-pate, who laughed a good deal 
at other people's witticisms, and had 
thereby made himself extremely popular. 
Mrs. Highcamp had accompanied them. 
Of course, there was Alcee Arobin; and 
225 



226 THE AWAKENING 

Mademoiselle Reisz had consented to come. 

Edna had sent her a fresh bunch of violets 

with black lace trimmings for her hair. 

Monsieur Ratignolle brought himself and 

his wife's excuses. Victor Lebrun, who 

happened to be in the city, bent upon 

relaxation, had accepted with alacrity. 

There was a Miss Mayblunt, no longer in 

her teens, who looked at the world through 

lorgnettes and with the keenest interest. It 

/was thought and said that she was intellec- 

V. tual ; it was suspected of her that she wrote 

J under a nom de guerre. She had come 

f with a gentleman by the name of Gouver- 

"""nail, connected with one of the daily papers, 

of whom nothing special could be said, 

except that he was observant and seemed 

quiet and inoffensive. Edna herself made 

the te»nth, and at half-past eight they seated 

themselves at table, Arobin and Monsieur 

Ratignolle on either side of their hostess. 

Mrs. Highcamp sat between Arobin and 
Victor Lebrun. Then came Mrs. Merri- 
man, Mr. Gouvernail, Miss Mayblunt, Mr. 
Merriman, and Mademoiselle Reisz next to 
Monsieur Ratignolle. 



THE AWAKENING 227 

There was something extremely gorgeous 
about the appearance of the table, an effect 
of splendor conveyed by a cover of pale 
yellow satin under strips of lace-work. 
There were wax candles in massive brass 
candelabra, burning softly under yellow silk 
shades; full, fragrant roses, yellow and red, 
abounded. There were silver and gold, as 
she had said there would be, and crystal 
which glittered like the gems which the 
women wore. 

The ordinary stiff dining chairs had been 
discarded for the occasion and replaced by 
the most commodious and luxurious which 
could be collected throughout the house. 
Mademoiselle Reisz, being exceedingly 
diminutive, was elevated upon cushions, as 
small children are sometimes hoisted at 
table upon bulky volumes. 

"Something new, Edna?" exclaimed 
Miss Mayblunt, with lorgnette directed 
toward a magnificent cluster of diamonds 
that sparkled, that almost sputtered, in 
Edna's hair, just over the center of her 
forehead. 

"Quitenew; 'brand' new, in fact; a pres- 



228 THE AWAKENING 

ent from my husband. It arrived this 
morning from New York. I may as well 
admit that this is my birthday, and that I 
am twenty-nine. In good time I expect 
you to drink my health. Meanwhile, I 
shall ask you to begin with this cocktail, 
composed — would you say 'composed?' " 
with an appeal to Miss Mayblunt — "com- 
posed by my father in honor of Sister 
Janet's wedding." 

Before each guest stood a tiny glass that 
looked and sparkled like a garnet gem. 

"Then, all things considered," spoke 
Arobin, "it might not be amiss to start out 
by drinking the Colonel's health in the 
cocktail which he composed, on the birth- 
day of the most charming of women — the 
daughter whom he invented." 

Mr. Merriman's laugh at this sally was 
such a genuine outburst and so contagious 
that it started the dinner with an agreeable 
swing that never slackened. 

Miss Mayblunt begged to be allowed to 
keep her cocktail untouched before her, just 
to look at. The color was marvelous ! She 
could compare it to nothing she had ever 



THE AWAKENING 229 

seen, and the garnet lights which it emitted 
were unspeakably rare. She pronounced 
the Colonel an artist, and stuck to it. 

Monsieur Ratignolle was prepared to take 
things seriously: the mets, the entre-mets, 
the service, the decorations, even the peo- 
ple. He looked up from his pompono and 
inquired of Arobin if he were related to the 
gentleman of that name who formed one of 
the firm of Laitner and Arobin, lawyers. 
The young man admitted that Laitner was 
a warm personal friend, who permitted 
Arobin's name to decorate the firm's letter- 
heads and to appear upon a shingle that 
graced Perdido Street. 

''There are so many inquisitive people 
and institutions abounding," said Arobin, 
"that one is really forced as a matter of 
convenience these days to assume the vir- 
tue of an occupation if he has it not." 

Monsieur Ratignolle stared a little, and 
turned to ask Mademoiselle Reisz if she 
considered the symphony concerts up to the 
standard which had been set the previous 
winter. Mademoiselle Reisz anwered Mon- 
sieur Ratignolle in French, which Edna 



2 3 o THE AWAKENING 

thought a little rude, under the circum- 
stances, but characteristic. Mademoiselle 
had only disagreeable things to say of the 
symphony concerts, and insulting remarks 
to make of all the musicians of New 
Orleans, singly and collectively. All her 
interest seemed to be centered upon the 
delicacies placed before her. 

Mr. Merriman said that Mr. Arobin's 
remark about inquisitive people reminded 
him of a man from Waco the other day at 
the St. Charles Hotel — but as Mr. Merri- 
man' s stories were always lame and lacking 
point, his wife seldom permitted him to 
complete them. She interrupted him to 
ask if he remembered the name of the 
author whose book she had bought the week 
before to send to a friend in Geneva. 
She was talking "books" with Mr. Gouver- 
nail and trying to draw from him his 
opinion upon current literary topics. Her 
husband told the story of the Waco man 
privately to Miss Mayblunt, who pretended 
to be greatly amused and to think it ex- 
tremely clever. 

Mrs. Highcamp hung with languid but 



THE AWAKENING 231 

unaffected interest upon the warm and im- 
petuous volubility of her left-hand neighbor, 
Victor Lebrun. Her attention was never 
for a moment withdrawn from him after 
seating herself at table ; and when he turned 
to Mrs. Merriman, who was prettier and 
more vivacious than Mrs. Highcamp, she 
waited with easy indifference for an oppor- 
tunity to reclaim his attention. There was 
the occasional sound of music, of mando- 
lins, sufficiently removed to be an agreeable 
accompaniment rather than an interruption 
to the conversation. Outside the soft, 
monotonous splash of a fountain could be 
heard ; the sound penetrated into the room 
with the heavy odor of jessamine that came 
through the open windows. 

The golden shimmer of Edna's satin gown 
spread in rich fclds on either side of her. 
There was a soft fall of lace encircling her 
shoulders. It was the color of her skin, 
without the glow, the myriad living tints 
that one may sometimes discover in vibrant 
flesh. There was something in her attitude, 
in her whole appearance when she leaned 
her head against the high-backed chair and 



232 THE AWAKENING 

spread her arms, which suggested the J^egaL 
womajk_lli£-j2rie_ who rules7~wTio~T ooks on, 
who stands alone. _ 

But as she sat the re am id her guests, she 
felt the old ennui overtaking~her ; the hope- 
lessness which so often assailed her, ^whlch 
came up6TrtreTiike~an"ob"se'ssion, like some- 
thing extraneous, independent of volition. 
It was something which announced itself; a 
chill breath that seemed to issue from some 
vast cavern wherein discords wailed. There 
came over her the acute longing which 
always summoned into her spiritual vision the 
presence of the beloved one, overpowering 
her at once with a sense of the unattainable. 

The moments glided on, while a feeling 
of good fellowship passed around the circle 
like a mystic cord, holding and binding 
these people together with jest and laugh- 
ter. Monsieur Ratignolle was the first to 
break the pleasant charm. At ten o'clock 
he excused himself. Madame Ratignolle 
was waiting for him at home. She was 
Men son ffr ante ^ and she was filled with vague 
dread, which only her husband's presence 
could allay. 



THE AWAKENING 233 

Mademoiselle Reisz arose with Monsieur 
Ratignolle, who offered to escort her to the 
car. She had eaten well; she had tasted 
the good, rich wines, and they must have 
turned her head, for she bowed pleasantly 
to all as she withdrew from table. She 
kissed Edna upon the shoulder, and whis- 
pered: "Bonne niiit, ma reine; soyez sage." 
She had been a little bewildered upon ris- 
ing, or rather, descending from her cush- 
ions, and Monsieur Ratignolle gallantly 
took her arm and led her away. 

Mrs. Highcamp was weaving a garland 
of roses, yellow and red. When she had 
finished the garland, she laid it lightly upon 
Victor's black curls. He was reclining far 
back in the luxurious chair, holding a glass 
of champagne to the light. 

As if a magician's wand had touched 
him, the garland of roses transformed him 
into a vision of Oriental beauty. His 
cheeks were the color of crushed grapes, 
and his dusky eyes glowed with a languish- 
ing fire. 

" Sapristi!'''' exclaimed Arobin. 

But Mrs. Highcamp had one more touch 



234 THE AWAKENING 

to add to the picture. She took from the 
back of her chair a white silken scarf, with 
which she had covered her shoulders in the 
early part of the evening. She draped it 
across the boy in graceful folds, and in a 
way to conceal his black, conventional even- 
ing dress. He did not seem to mind what 
she did to him, only smiled, showing a 
faint gleam of white teeth, while he contin- 
ued to gaze with narrowing eyes at the 
light through his glass of champagne. 

"Oh! to be able to paint in color rather 
than in words!" exclaimed Miss Mayblunt, 
losing herself in a rhapsodic dream as she 
looked at him. 

*' 'There was a graven image of Desire 

Painted with red blood on a ground of gold.' " 

murmured Gouvernail, under his breath. 

The effect of the wine upon Victor was, 
to change his accustomed volubility into 
silence. He seemed to have abandoned 
himself to a reverie, and to be seeing pleas- 
ing visions in the amber bead. 

"Sing," entreated Mrs. Highcamp. 
"Won't you sing to us?" 



THE AWAKENING 235 

"Let him alone," said Arobin. 

"He's posing," offered Mr. Merriman; 
"let him have it out." 

"I believe he's paralyzed," laughed Mrs. 
Merriman. And leaning over the youth's 
chair, she took the glass from his hand and 
held it to his lips. He sipped the wine 
slowly, and when he had drained the glass 
she laid it upon the table and wiped his 
lips with her little filmy handkerchief. 

"Yes, I'll sing for you," he said, turn- 
ing in his chair toward Mrs. Highcamp. 
He clasped his hands behind his head, and 
looking up at the ceiling began to hum a 
little, trying his voice like a musician tun- 
ing an instrument. Then, looking at 
Edna, he began to sing: 

"Ah! si tu savais!" 

"Stop!" she cried, "don't sing that. I 
don't want yuu Lu sing. it,' ' JAlitt" she laid her 
g1asT^o"impetuously and blindly upon the 
table as to shatter it against a caraffe. The 
wine spilled over~Xrobin's legs and some 
of it trickled do\vnupj5h Mrs. Highcamp r s 
black gauze gown. Victor had lost all idea 



236 THE AWAKENING 

of courtesy, or else he thought his hostess 

was not in earnest, for he laughed and 

went on: 

"Ah! si tu savais 
Ce que tes yeux me disent" — 

"Oh! you mustn't! you mustn't," 
exclaimed Edna, and pushing back her 
chair she got up, and going behind him 
placed her hand over his mouth. He kissed 
the soft palm that presseoTlIpoh his lips. 

"No, no, I ""won'tV^Hr's! PonteltiefT I 
didn't know you meant it," looking up at 
her with caressing eyes. The touch of his 
lips was like a pleasing sting to her hand. 
She lifted,tlLe^ajJan<loiLj^ 
and_flungit across the room. 

"Come, Victor; you've posed long 
enough. Give Mrs. Highcamp her scarf." 

Mrs. Highcamp undraped the scarf from 
about him with her own hands. Miss May- 
blunt and Mr. Gouvernail suddenly con- 
ceived the notion that it was time to say 
good night. And Mr. and Mrs. Merriman 
wondered how it could be so late. 

Before parting from Victor, Mrs. High- 
camp invited him to call upon her daughter, 



THE AWAKENING 237 

who she knew" would be charmed to meet 
him and talk French and sing French songs 
with him. Victor expressed his desire and 
intention to call upon Miss Highcamp at 
the first opportunity which presented itself. 
He asked if Arobin were going his way. 
Arobin was not. 

The mandolin players had long since 
stolen away. A profound stillness had 
fallen upon the broad, beautiful street. The 
voices of Edna's disbanding guests jarred 
like a discordant note upon the quiet har- 
mony of the night. 



XXXI 

"Well?" questioned Arobin, who had 
remained with Edna after the others had 
departed. 

"Well," she reiterated, and stood up, 
stretching her arms, and feeling the need to 
relax her muscles after having been so long 
seated. 

"What next?" he asked. 

"The servants are all gone. They left 
when the musicians did. I have dismissed 
them. The house has to be closed and 
locked, and I shall trot around to the pigeon 
house, and shall send Celestine over in the 
morning to straighten things up." 

He looked around, and began 10 turn out 
some of the lights. 

"What about upstairs?" he inquired. 

"I think it is all right; but there may be 
a window or two unlatched. We had bet- 
ter look; you might take a candle and see. 
And bring me my wrap and hat on the 
foot of the bed in the middle room." 
238 



THE AWAKENING 239 

He went up with the light, and Edna 
began closing doors and windows. She 
hated to shut in the smoke and the fumes 
of the wine. Arobin found her cape and 
hat, which he brought down and helped her 
to put on. 

When everything was secured and the 
lights put out, they left through the front 
door, Arobin locking it and taking the key, 
which he carried for Edna. He helped her 
down the steps. 

"Will you have a spray of jessamine?" he 
asked, breaking off a few blossoms as 
he passed. 

"No; I don't want anything." 

She seeme d disheartened, and had noth- 
ing to say. She^took_his arm, whicii lie*"— 
orTereoTher, holding up the weight of her 
satin "traifTwith the other hand. SheTookecT" 
down, noticing TEe~black line of his leg 
moving in and out so close to her against 
the yellow shimmer of her gown. There 
was the whistle of a railway train somewhere 
in the distance, and the midnight bells were 
ringing. They met no one in their short 
walk. 



240 THE AWAKENING 

The "pigeon-house" stood behind a 
locked gate, and a shallow parterre that had 
been somewhat neglected. There was a 
small front porch, upon which a long win- 
dow and the front door opened. The door 
opened directly into the parlor; there was 
no side entry. Back in the yard was a room 
for servants, in which old Celestine had 
been ensconced. 

Edna had left a lamp burning low upon 
the table. She had succeeded in making 
the room look habitable and homelike. 
There were some books on the table and 
a lounge near at hand. On the floor was a 
fresh matting, covered with a rug or two; 
and on the walls hung a few tasteful pic- 
tures. But the room was filled with flowers. 

These were a"ffffrrjflse_„to_hejr, Arobin had 

jge'nt them, and had had Celestine distribute 
them during Edna's absence. Her bed- 
room was adjoining, and across a small pas- 
sage were the dining-room and kitchen. 

Edn a seated herself with e v ery appear- 
ance of discomfort. 

"Are you tired?" he asked. 



THE AWAKENING 241 

"Yes, and chilled, and miserable. I feel \ .., 

as If I had been wound up to a certain . V 

pitch — too tight — and something inside of f 

me had snapped." She rested her head 
against the table upon her bare arm. 

"You want to rest," he said, "and to be 
quiet. I'll go; I'll leave you and let you 
rest." 

"Yes," she replied. 

He stood up beside her and smoothed her 
hair with his soft, magnetic hand. His 
touch conveyed to her a certain physical 
comfort. She could have fallen quietly 
asleep there if he had continued to pass his 
hand over her hair. He brushed the hair 
upward from the nape of her neck. 

"I hope you will feel better and happier 
in the morning," he said. "You have tried 
to do too much in the past few days. The 
dinner was...th.e..lasJL^straw4 you might have 
dispensed with it." 

"Yes," she .adr0itte.d4~il.it- was- stupid." 

"No, it was delightful.;. but it has worn 
you out.'^_ His hand had strayed to her 
beautiful shoulders, and he could feel the 
response of her flesh to his touch. He 



'? 



/ 



242 THE AWAKENING 

seated himself beside her and kissed her 
lightly upon the shoulder. 

^"thought you were going away," she 
said, in an uneven voice. 

"I am, after I have said good night." 

"Good night," she murmured. 

He did not answer, except to continue 
to caress her. He did not say good night 
until she had become supple to his gentle, 
seductive entreaties. 






XXXII 

When Mr. Pontellier learned of his wife's 
intention to abandon her home and take up 
her residence elsewhere, he immediately 
wrote her a letter of unqualified disapproval 
and remonstrance. She had given reasons 
which he was unwilling to acknowledge as 
adequate. He hoped she had not acted 
upon her rash impulse ; and he begged her 
to consider first, foremost, and above all 
else, what people would say. He was not 
dreaming of scandal when he uttered this 
warning; that was a thing which would 
never have entered into his mind to consider 
in connection with his wife's name or his 
own. He was simply thinking of his finan- 
cial integrity. It might get noised about 
that the Pontelliers had met with reverses, 
and were forced to conduct their manage on 
a humbler scale than heretofore. It might 
do incalculable mischief to his business pros- 
pects. 

2 43 



244 THE AWAKENING 

But remembering Edna's whimsical turn 
of mind of late, and foreseeing that she had 
immediately acted upon her impetuous de- 
termination, he grasped the situation 
with his usual promptness and handled it with 
his well-known business tact and cleverness. 

The sarne_ma.il which brought to Edna 
his^ letter of disap proval carried_instruc- 
tions — -the most minu te instruction s — to a 
well-known architect concerning the remod- 
eling of his home, changes which -he 4iad 
long contemplated, and which he desired 
carried forward during his temporary 
absence. 

Expert and reliable packers and movers 
were engaged to convey the furniture, car- 
pets, pictures — everything movable, in 
short — to places of security. And in an 
incredibly short time the Pontellier house 
was turned over to the artisans. There was 
to be an addition — a small snuggery ; there 
was to be frescoing, and hardwood flooring 
was to be put into such rooms as had not 
yet been subjected to this improvement. 

Furthermore, in one of the daily papers 
appeared a brief notice to the effect that 



THE AWAKENING 245 

Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier were contemplating 
a summer sojourn abroad, and that their 
handsome residence on Esplanade Street 
was undergoing sumptuous alterations, and 
would not be ready for occupancy until 
their return. Mr. Pontellie r had saved 
appearances ! "*—— . — .__ 









Edna admired the skill of his maneuver, 
and aT6l3ect~any^occasion to balk hisTnten- 
tions. When the situation as set forth by 
Mr. Pontellier was accepted and taken for 
granted, she was apparently satisfied that 
it should be so. 

The pigeon-house pleased her. It at 
once assumed the ~Tntimate" character of 
a home, while she herself investecT it with_a 
charm which it reflected like a warm glow. Y)(^\J^\~- 
Tltere~"wa:s"'""wTf'h""rier a feeling of having % \. ^ \\c f\ 
descended in the social scale, with a corres- **«*-*<_ ^ UL' 
ponding sense~ol having risen in the spirit- 
ual. Every step which she took toward 
relieving herself from obligations added to 
her strength and expansion as an individual. 
She began to look with her own eyes; to 
see~and to apprehend the deeper undercur- 
rents of life. . No longer was she content to 



246 THE AWAKENING 

''fejed__upon__oginion'' when her own soul 
had invited her. 

After a little while, a few days, in fact, 
Edna went up and spent a week with her 
children in Iberville. They were delicious 
February days, with all the summer's 
promise hovering in the air. 

How glad she _ wfy* *<"> ^^ t he children! 
She wept for very pleasure when she felt 
their little arms clasping her; their hard, 
ruddy cheeks pressed against her own glow- 
ing cheeks. She looked into their faces 
with hungry eyes that could not be satisfied 
with looking. And what stories they had 
to tell their mother! About the pigs, 
the cows, the mules! About riding to the 
mill behind Gluglu ; fishing back in the lake 
with their Uncle Jasper; picking pecans 
with Lidie's little black brood, and hauling 
chips in their express wagon. It was a 
thousand times more fun to haul real chips 
for old lame Susie's real fire than to drag 
painted blocks along the banquette on 
Esplanade Street ! 

She went with them herself to see the 
pigs and the cows, to look at the darkies 



THE AWAKENING 247 

laying the cane, to thrash the pecan trees, 
and catch fish in the back lake. She lived 
with them_a_whole week Jong, giving them 
all of hers_elf, and gathering and filling her- 
self with their young existence. They 
listened, breathless, when she told them the 
house in Esplanade Street was crowded with 
workmen, hammering, nailing, sawing, and 
filling the place with clatter. They wanted 
to know where their bed was ; what had been 
done with their rocking-horse; and where 
did Joe sleep, and where had Ellen gone, 
and the cook? But, above all, they were, 
fired with' a d£sire^q_see.jthe little house 
around the block. Was there any place to 
play? Were~~lh~ere any boys next door? 
Raoul, with pessimistic foreboding, was 
convinced that there were only girls next 
door. Where would they sleep, and where 
would papa sleep? She told them the fairies 
would fix it all right. 

The old Madame was charmed with 
Edna's visit, and showered all manner of 
delicate attentions upon her. She was 
dd^_ted_ta-kQi2w_that the Esplanade Street 
house was in a dismantled conditiohT" It 



248 THE AWAKENING 

gave her the promise and pretext to keep 
the" children ^ indefinite ly. 

T£_jv£as~--with a wrench -ami a paag thai 
Edna left her children . She carried away 
with her the sound of their voices and the 
touch of their cheeks. All along the jour- 
ney homeward their presence lingered with 
her like the memory of a delicious song. 
But by the time she had regained the city 
the song no longer echoed in her soul. £he 
was again alone- 



3 3 



XXXIII 

It happened sometimes when Edna went 
to see Mademoiselle Reisz that the little 
musician was absent, giving a lesson or 
making some small necessary household 
purchase. The key was always left in a 
secret hiding-place in the entry, which Edna 
knew. If Mademoiselle happened to be 
away, Edna would usually enter and wait 
for her return. 

When she knocked at Mademoiselle 
Reisz's door one afternoon there was no 
response; so unlocking the door, as usual, 
she entered and found the apartment 



serted, as she had expected. Her day had 
'Been quite - TTHeof up, and it was for a rest, 
for a refuge, and to talk about Robert, that 
she sought out her friend. 

She had worked at her canvas — a young 

Italian character study — all the morning, 

completing the work without the model ; but 

there had been many interruptions, some 

249 



250 THE AWAKENING 

incident to her modest housekeeping, and 
others of a social nature. 

Madame Ratignolle had dragged herself 
Over, avoiding the "too public thorough- 
fares, she said. She cmnpJairj^d^thatJEdna, 
had neglected .hetL.much_oi_late. Besides, 
she was consumed with curiosity to see the 
little house and the manner in which it was 
conducted. She wanted to hear all about 
the dinnerparty; Monsieur Ratignolle had 
left so early. What had happened after he 
left? The champagne and grapes which 
Edna sent over were too delicious. She had 
so little appetite; they had refreshed and 
toned her stomach. Where on earth was she 
going to put Mr. Pontellier in that little 
house, and the boys? And then she made 
Edna promise to go to her when her hour of 
trial overtook her. 

"At any time — any time of the day or 
night, dear," Edna assured her. 

Before leaving Madame Ratignolle said: 

|" In some way you seem to me like a 

child, Edna. You seem to act without 

a certain amount of reflection which is 

necessary in this life. \ That is the reason I 



THE AWAKENING 251 

want to say you mustn't mind if I advise 
you to be a little careful while you are liv- 
ing here alone. Why don't you have some 
one come and stay with you? Wouldn't 
Mademoiselle Reisz come?" 

"No; she wouldn't wish to come, and I 
shouldn't want her always with me." 

"Well, the reason — you know how evil- 
minded the world is — some one was talking 
of Alcee Arobin visiting you. Of course, 
it wouldn't matter if Mr. Arobin had not 
such a dreadful reputation. Monsieur 
Ratignolle was telling me that his attentions 
alone are considered enough to ruin a wom- 
an's name." 

"Does he boast of his successes?" asked 
Edna, indifferently, squinting at her pic- 
ture. 

"No, I think not. I believe he is a 
decent fellow as far as that goes. But his 
character is so well known among the men. 
I shan't be able to come back and see 
you; it was very, very imprudent to-day." 

"Mind the step!" cried Edna." 

"Don't neglect me," entreated Madame 
Ratignolle; "and don't mind what I said 

1 x *#% , . vV* n cu * 






rv^- *? 



252 THE AWAKENING 

about Arobin, or having some one to stay 
with you." 

"Of course not," Edna laughed. "You 
may say anything you like to me." They 
kissed each other good-by. Madame Ratig- 
nolle had not far to go, and Edna stood 
on the porch a while watching her walk 
down the street. 

Then in the afternoon Mrs. Merriman and 
Mrs. Highcamp had made their "party 
call." Edna felt that they might have dis- 
pensed with the formality. They had also 
come to invite her to play vingt-et-un one 
evening at Mrs. Merriman's. She was 
asked to go early, to dinner, and Mr. Mer- 
riman or Mr. Arobin would take her home. 
Edna accepted in a half-hearted way. She 
sometimes felt very tired of Mrs. Highcamp 
and Mrs. Merriman. 

Late in the afternoon she sought refuge 
with Mademoiselle Reisz, and stayed there 
alone, waiting for "her, feeling a kind of 
repose invade her with the very atmosphere 
of the shabby, unpretentious little room. 

Edna sat at the window, which looked 
out over the house-tops and across the river. 



THE AWAKENING 253 

The window frame was filled with pots of 
flowers, and she sat and picked the dry 
leaves from a rose geranium. The day was 
warm, and the breeze which blew from the 
river was very pleasant. She removed her 
hat and laid it on the piano. She went on 
picking the leaves and digging around the 
plants with her hat pin. Once she thought 
she heard Mademoiselle Reisz approaching. 
But it was a young black girl, who came in, 
bringing a small bundle of laundry, which 
she deposited in the adjoining room, and 
went away. 

Edna seated herself at the piano, and 
softly picked out with one hand the bars of 
a piece of music which lay open before her. 
A half-hour went by. There was the occa- 
sional sound of people going and coming in 
the lower hall. She was growing interested 
in her occupation of picking out the aria, 
when there was a second rap at the door. 
She vaguely wondered what these people 
did when they found Mademoiselle's door 
locked. 

"C ome in," she called, turning her face 
toward the doon^Anct^this time it was 



254 THE AWAKENING 

Robert Lebruu — whg^_presented himself. 
She attempted to rise; she could not have 
done so without betraying the agitation 
which mastered her at sight of him, so she 
fell back upon the stool, only exclaiming, 
"Wh^.J&ebestU' 

He came and clasped her hand, seemingly 
without knowing what he was saying oi 
doing. 

"Mrs. Pontellier! How do you hap- 
pen — oh! how well you look! Is Made- 
moiselle Reisz not here? I never expected 
to see you." 

"When did you come back?" asked Edna 
in an unsteady voice, wiping her face with 
her handkerchief. She seemed ill at ease 
on the piano stool, and he begged her to 
take the chair by the window. She did so, 
mechanically, while he seated himself on 
the stool. 

"I returned day before yesterday," he 
answered, while he leaned his arm on the 
keys, bringing forth a crash of discordant 
sound. 

"Day before yesterday!" she repeated, 
aloud; and went on thinking to herself, 



THE AWAKENING 255 

"day before yesterday," in a sort of an 
uncomprehending way. She had pictured 
him seeking her at the very first hour, and 
he had lived under the same sky since day 
before yesterday; while only by accident 
had he stumbled upon her. Mademoiselle 
must have lied when she said, "Poor fool, 
he loves you." 

"Day before yesterday," she repeated, 
breaking off a spray of Mademoiselle's 
geranium; "then if you had not met me 
here to-day you wouldn't — when — that is, 
didn't you mean to come and see me?" 

"Of course, I should have gone to see 
you. There have been so many things — " 
he turned the leaves of Mademoiselle's 
music nervously. "I started in at once 
yesterday with the old firm. After all there 
is as much chance for me here as there was 
there — that is, I might find it profitable 
some day. The Mexicans were not very 
congenial." 

So he had come back because the Mexi - 
cans"were "not cuilg"ehial ; because business 
was a s^prohtable ji eriras ther e ;~T5ecause of, 
any reas on, a nd not because he carecTf^b^ 



. 256 THE AWAKENING 

near her . She remembered the day she sat 
on the floor, turning the pages of his letter, 
seeking the reason which was left untold. 

She had not noticed how he looked — only- 
feeling his presence ; but she turned deliber- 
ately and observed him. After all, he had 
been absent but a few months, and was not 
changed. His hair — the color of hers — 
waved back from his temples in the same 
way as before. His skin was not more 
burned than it had been at Grand Isle. 
She found in his eyes, when he looked at 
her for one silent moment, the same tender 
caress, with an added warmth and entreaty 
which had not been there before — the same 
glance which had penetrated to the sleeping 
places of her soul and awakened them. 

A hundred times Edna had pictured 
Robert's return, and imagined their first 
meeting. It was usually at her home, 
whither he had sought her out at once. 
She always fancied him expressing or 
betraying in some way his love for her. 
And here, the reality was that they sat ten 
<: feet apart, she at the window, crushing 
\ geranium leaves in her hand and smelling 



THE AWAKENING 257 

them, he twirling around on the piano J 
stool, saying: 

"I was very much surprised to hear of 
Mr. Pontellier's absence; it's a wonder 
Mademoiselle Reisz did not tell me; and 
your moving — mother told me yesterday. 
I should think you would have gone to New 
York with him, or to Iberville with the chil- 
dren, rather than be bothered here with 
housekeeping. And you are going abroad, 
too, I hear. We shan't have you at Grand 
Isle next summer; it won't seem — do you 
see much of Mademoiselle Reisz? She 
often spoke of you in the few letters she 
wrote." 

"Do you remember that you promised to 
write to me when you went away?" A 
flush overspread his whole face. 

"I couldn't believe that my letters would 
be of any interest to you." 

"That is an excuse; it isn't the truth." 
Edna reached for her hat on the piano. 
She adjusted it, sticking the hat pin through 
the heavy coil of hair with some deliberation. 

"Are you not going to wait for Made- 
moiselle Reisz?" asked Robert, 



258 THE AWAKENING 

"No; I have found when she is absent 
this long, she is liable not to come back till 
late." She drew on her gloves, and Robert 
picked up his hat. 

"Won't you wait for her?" asked Edna. 

"Not if you think she will not be back 
till late," adding, as if suddenly aware of 
some discourtesy in his speech, "and I 
should miss the pleasure of walking home 
with you." Edna locked the door and put 
the key back in its hiding-place. 

They went together, picking their way 
across muddy streets and sidewalks encum- 
bered with the cheap display of small trades- 
men. Part of the distance they rode in the 
car, and after disembarking, passed the 
Pontellier mansion, which looked broken and 
half torn asunder. Robert had never known 
the house, and looked at it with interest. 

"I never knew you in your home," he 
remarked. 

"I am glad you did not." 

"Why?" She did not answer. They 
went on around the corner, and it seemed 
as if her dreams were coming true after all, 
when he followed her into the little house. 



THE AWAKENING 259 

"You must stay and dine with me, RobO 
ert. You see I am all alone, and it iss 
so long since I have seen you. There is so 
much I want to ask you." ^^ 

She took off her hat and gloves. He 
stood irresolute, making some excuse about 
his mother who expected him; he even mut- 
tered something about an engagement. 
She struck a match and lit the lamp on the 
table; it was growing dusk. When he saw 
her face in the lamp-light, looking pained, 
with all the soft lines gone out of it, he 
threw his hat aside and seated himself. 

"O h! you know I want to stay if you 
will let me ! ' ' he exclaimed. All the soft- 
ness came back. She laughed, and went 
and put her hand on his shoulder " 

"^This is t he first momen t you have 
seemed like the old Robert. I'll go tell Ce- 
lestTner" 5ne* hurried away to tell Celes- 
tine to set an extra place. She even sent 
her off in search of some added delicacy 
which she had not thought of for herself. 
And she recommended great care in dripping 
the coffee and having the omelet done to 
a proper turn. 



260 THE AWAKENING 

When she reentered, Robert was turning 
over magazines, sketches, and things that 
lay upon the table in great disorder. He 
picked up a photograph, and exclaimed : 

"Alcee Arobin! What on earth is his 
picture doing here?" 

"I tried to make a sketch of his head one 
day," answered Edna, "and he thought 
the photograph might help me. It was at 
the other house. I thought it had been left 
there. I must have packed it up with my 
drawing materials." 

''I should think you would give it back 
to him if you have finished with it." 

"Oh! I have a great many such photo- 
graphs. I never think of returning them. 
They don't amount to anything." Robert 
kept on looking at the picture. 

"It seems to me — do you think his head 
worth drawing? Is he a friend of Mr. 
Pontellier's? You never said you knew 
him." 

"He isn't a friend of Mr. Pontellier's; 
he's a friend of mine . I always knew him — 
that_j s,_iiLi^only of late that I kn ow_hJm, 
pretty well. But I'd rather talk about you, 




THE AWAKENING 



261 



and know what you have been seeing and 
doing and feeling out there in Mexico." 
Robert threw aside the picture. 

'.'I've be en seeing the waves and the 
white beach of Grand Is le* the quiet, grassy 
_street of the Cheniere; t he old forfi at Gr^ndf 
Terre. I ve been working like a machine, 
and feeling like a lost soul. There was 
nothing interesting." 

She leaned her head upon her hand to 
shade her eyes from the light. 

"And what have you been seeing and 
doing and feeling all these days?" he asked. 

"I've been seeing the wa ves _and th e 
white Beach of Grand isle; the quiet, grassy 
streetTbi ^Keukemere Caniinacta; the old 
sunny fort at Grande Terre. I've been 
working with a little more comprehension 
than a machine, and still feeling like a lost 
soul. There was nothing interesting." 

"Mrs. Pontellier, you are cruel," he said, 
with feeling, closing his eyes and resting his 
head back in his chair. They remained in 
silence till old Celestine announced dinner. 





XXXIV 

The dining-room was very small. Edna's 
round mahogany would have almost filled 
it. As it was there was but a step or two 
from the little table to the kitchen, to the 
mantel, the small buffet, and the side door 
that opened out on the narrow brick-paved 
yard. 

A certain degree of ceremony settled 
upon them with the announcement of din- 
ner. There was no return to personalities. 
Robert reTated*1n:cidents of his sojourn in 
Mexico, and Edna talked of events likely 
to in terest him, which had occurred during 
his absence. The dinner was of ordinary 
quality, except for the few delicacies which 
she had sent out to purchase. Old Celes- 
tine, with a bandana tignon twisted about 
her head, hobbled in and out, taking a per- 
sonal interest in everything; and she lin- 
gered occasionally to talk patois with Robert, 
whom she had known as a boy. 
262 



THE AWAKENING 263 

He went out to a neighboring cigar stand 
to purchase cigarette papers, and when he 
came back he found that Celestine had 
served the black coffee in the parlor. 

"Perhaps I shouldn't have come back, ' ' 
he said. "When you are tired of me, tell 
me to go." 

"You never tire me. You must have 
forgotten the hours and hours at Grand Isle 
in which we grew accustomed to each other 
and used to being together." 

"I have forgotten nothing at Grand 
Isle," he said, not looking at her, but roll- 
ing a cigarette. His tobacco pouch, which 
he laid upon the table, was a fantastic em- 
broidered silk affair, evidently the handiwork 
of a woman. 

"You used to carry your tobacco in a 
rubber pouch," said Edna, picking up the 
pouch and examining the needlework. 

"Yes; it was lost." 

"Where did you buy this one? In Mex- 
ico?" 

"It was given to me by a Vera Cruz girl; 
they are very generous," he replied, striking 
a match and lighting his cigarette. 



264 THE AWAKENING 

"They are very handsome, I suppose, 
those Mexican women; very picturesque, 
with their black eyes and their lace scarfs." 

"Some are; others are hideous. Just as 
you find women everywhere." 

"What was she like — the one who gave 
you the pouch? You must have known 
her very well." 

"She was very ordinary. She wasn't of 
the slightest importance. I knew her well 
enough." 

"Did you visit at her house? Was it 
interesting? I should like to know and 
hear about the people you met, and the im- 
pressions they made on you." 

"There are some people who leave impres- 
sions not so lasting as the imprint of an oar 
upon the water." 

"Was she such a one?" 

"It would be ungenerous for me to admit 
that she was of that order and kind." He 
thrust the pouch back in his pocket, as if 
to put away the subject with the trifle 
which had brought it up. 

Arobin dropped in with a message from 



THE AWAKENING 265 

Mrs. Merriman, to say that the card party 
was postponed on account of the illness of 
one of her children. 

"How do you do, Arobin?" said Robert, 
rising" from the obscurity. 
*~ XJ Oh! JLebrun. T6~5e sure ! I heard yes- 
terday you were back. How did they treat 
you down in Mexique?" 

"Fairly well." 

"But not well enough to keep you there. 
Stunning girls, though, in Mexico. I 
thought I should never get away from Vera 
Cruz when I was down there a couple of 
years ago." 

"Did they embroider slippers and tobacco 
pouches and hat-bands and things for you?" 
asked Edna. 

"Oh! my! no! I didn't get so deep in 
their regard. I fear they made more im- 
pression on me than I made on them." 

"You were less fortunate than Robert, 
then." 

"I am always less fortunate than Robert. 
Has he been imparting tender confidences?" 

"I've been imposing myself long 



266 THE AWAKENING 

enough," said Robert, rising, and shaking 

hands with Edna. "Please convey my 

regards to Mr. Pontellier when you write." 

He shook hands with Arobin and went 

aaid^Arobin 
when KolSert had go ne. "I never heard 
you speak of him." 

"~ "I knew hirrTTasf summer at Grand Isle," 
she replied. "Here is that photograph of 
yours. Don't you want it?" 

"What do I want with it? Throw it 
away." She threw it back on the table. 
^"I'm not going to Mrs. Merriman's," she 
said. "If you see her, tell her so. But 
perhaps I had better write. I think I shall 
write now, and say that I am sorry her child 
is sick, and tell her not to count on me." 

' ' It would be a good scheme, ' ' acquiesced 
Arobin. "I don't blame you; stupid lot!" 

Edna opened the blotter, and having pro- 
cured paper and pen, began to write the 
note. Arobin lit a cigar and read the even- 
ing paper, which he had in his pocket. 

"What is the date?" she asked. He told 
her. 



THE AWAKENING 267 

"Will you mail this for me when you go 
out?" 

"Certainly." He read to her little bits 
out of the newspaper, while she straight- 
ened things on the table. 

"What do you want to do?" he asked, 
throwing aside the paper. ' ' Do you want to 
go out for a walk or a drive or anything? 
It would be a fine night to drive." 

"No; I don't want to do anything but 
just be quiet. You go away and amuse 
yourself. Don't stay." 

"I'll go awaj^_Jf--i--Tnttatt--tuiLj _shan , t 
a muse myse lf. You know tha| I only Hvp 
when I am near you." 

He stood up to bid her good night. 

"Is that one of the things you always say 
to women?" 

"I have said it before, but I don't think 
I ever came so near meaning it," he 
answered with a smile. There were no 
warm lights in her eyes; only a dreamy, 
absent look. 

"Goodnight. I adore you. Sleep well," 
he said, and he kissed her hand and went 
away. 



268 THE AWAKENING 

She stayed alone in a kind "f rPverfcrrriL 
, sort of stup or. Step by step she lived over 
every instant of the time she had been with 
Robert after he had entered Mademoiselle 
Reisz's door. She^jecalled his w^d^Jij^ 
X°2k§j— • How few and meager they had been 
for her hungry heart! A vision — a trans- 
cendently seductive vision of a Mexican girl 
arose before her. She writhed with a jeal- 
ous pang. She wondered when he would come 
back. He had not said he would come back. 
She had been with him, had heard his voice 
and touched his hand. But some way he had 
seemed nearer ..to her off. there in Mexico. 






XXXV 

The morning was full of sunlight and 
hope. Edna could see before her no 
denial — only the promise of excessive joy. 
She lay in bed awake, with bright eyes full 
of speculation. ' ' He lo ve s you, poor fool. 
If she could but ^et th at conviction firmly 
fixed in her mind, what mattered about the 
rest? She felt she had been childish and 
unwise the night before in giving herself 
over to despondency. She recapitulated 
the motives which no doubt explained Rob- 
ert's reserve. They were not insurmount- 
able ; they would not hold if he really loved 
her; they could not hold against her own 
passion, which he must come to realize in 
time. She pictured him going to his busi- 
ness that morning. She even saw how he 
was dressed ; how he walked down one 
street, and turned the corner of another; 
saw him bending over his desk, talking to 
people who entered the office, going to his 
269 



270 THE AWAKENING 

lunch, and perhaps watching for her on the 
street. He would come to her in the after- 
noon or evening, sit and roll his cigarette, 
talk a little, and go away as he had done the 
night before. But how delicious it would be 
to have him there with her ! _ She_wpiLl.d 
Eave no regrets, nor seek to penetrate his 
re serve if he st ill chose^ to/wear it. 

Edna ate her breakfast only half dressed. 
The maid brought her a delicious printed 
scrawl from Raoul, expressing his love, ask- 
ing her to send him some bonbons, and 
telling her they had found that morning ten 
tiny white pigs all lying in a row beside 
Lidie's big white pig. 

A letter also came from her husband, say- 
ing he hoped to be back early in March, and 
then they would get ready for that journey 
abroad which he had promised her so long, 
which he felt now fully able to afford ; he 
felt able to travel as people should, without 
any thought of small economies — thanks to 
his recent speculations in Wall Street. 

Much tojher surprise she received a note 
from Arobin, written at midnight from the 
club. It was to say good morning to her, 



THE AWAKENING 271 

to h ope fch a+ shr had nkpf ,,^11 JL jT>^2211- rP 
her of his devotion, whic h he trusted she in 

All these letters were pleasing to her. 
She answered the children in a cheerful 
frame of mind, promising them bonbons, 
and congratulating them upon their happy 
find of the little pigs. 

She answered her husband with friendly 
evasiveness, — not with any fixed design to 
mislead him, onl y because all sense o f real- 
ity had go ne out of her life ; she had aban- 
doned herself to Fate, and awaited the 
conseque nces with indifference. 

To Arobin's note she made no reply. 
She put it under Celestine's stove-lid. 

Edna worked several hours with much 
spirit. She saw no one but a picture dealer, 
who asked her if it were true that she was 
going abroad to study in Paris. 

She said possibly she might, and he nego- 
tiated with her for some Parisian studies to 
reach him in time for the holiday trade in 
December. 

Robert did not come that day. She was 
keenly disappointed. He did not come the 



272 THE AWAKENING 

following day, nor the next. Each morn- 
ing she awoke with hope, and each night 
she was a prey to despondency. She was 
tempted to seek him out. But far from 
yielding to the impulse, she avoided any 
occasion which might throw her in his way. ] 
She did not go to Mademoiselle Reisz's nor 
pass by Madame Lebrun's, as she might 
have done if he had still been in Mexico. 

When Arobin, one night, urged her to 
drive with him, she went — out to the lake, 
on the Shell Road. His horses were full 
of mettle, and even a little unmanageable. 
She liked the rapid gait at which they spun 
along, and the quick, sharp sound of the 
horses' hoofs on the hard road. They did 
not stop anywhere to eat or to drink. 
Arobin was not needlessly imprudent. But 
they ate and they drank when they regained 
Edna's little dining-room — which was com- 
paratively early in the evening. 

It was late when he left her. It was get- 
ting to be more than a passing whim with 
Arobin to see her and be with her^_ He had 
detected the latent sensuality, which un- 



THE AWAKENING 273 

folded under his delicate sense of her na- 
ture's requirements like a torpid, torrid, 
sensitive blossom. 

There was no despondency when she fell 
asleep that night ; nor was there hope when 
she awoke in the morning. 



7 







Ob 



XXXVI 

There was a garden out in the suburbs; 
a small, leafy corner, with a few green 
tables under the orange trees. An old cat 
slept all day on the stone step in the sun, 
and an old mulatresse slept her idle hours 
away in her chair at the open window, till 
some one happened to knock on one of the 
green tables. She had milk and cream 
cheese to sell, and bread and butter. There 
was no one who could make such excellent 
coffee or fry a chicken so golden brown as 
she. 

The place was too modest to attract the 
attention of people of fashion, and so quiet 
as to have escaped the notice of those in 
search of pleasure and dissipation. Edna 
had discovered it accidentally one day when 
the high-board gate stood ajar. She caught 
sight of a little green table, blotched with 
the checkered sunlight that filtered through 
274 



THE AWAKENING 275 

the quivering leaves overhead. Within she 
had found the slumbering mulatresse, the 
drowsy cat, and a glass of milk which 
reminded her of the milk she had tasted in 
Iberville. 

She often stopped there during her per- 
ambulations ; sometimes taking a book with 
her, and sitting an hour or two under the 
trees when she found the place deserted. 
Once or twice she took a quiet dinner there 
alone, having instructed Celestine before- 
hand to prepare no dinner at home. It was 
the last place in the city where she would 
have expected to meet any one she knew. 

Still she was not astonished when, as she 
was partaking of a modest dinner late in the 
afternoon, looking into an open book, strok- 
ing the cat, which had made friends with her 
— she was not greatly astonished to see 
Rob ef t come | n a^Jhe^a^^rjgn^gat e . 
*""~"I_am destined to see you only by acci- 
dent," she said, sliuviiig Llle cat off the 
chair beside her. He was surprised, ill at 
ease, almost embarrassed at meeting her 
thus so unexpectedly. 

"Do you come here often?" he asked. 




276 THE AWAKENING 

"I almost live here," she said*. 

"I used to drop in very often for a cup 
of Catiche's good coffee. This is the first 
time since I came back." 

"She'll bring you a plate, and you will 
share my dinner. There's always enough 
for two — even three." Edna had intended 
to be indifferent and as reserved as he when 
she met him; she had reached the deter- 
mination by a laborious train of reasoning, 
incident to one of her despondent moods. 
But her resolve melted when she saw him 
before her, seated there beside her in the 
little garden, as if a designing Providence 
had leo^_himJmo^hej^ath^, 

"Why have you kept away from me, 
Robert ?' ' she nTs1ce5 r ,"cTosrng*-t-he book *hat- - 
lay open upon the table. 

"Why are you so personal, Mrs. PonteJL 
Her? Why do you force me to idiotic sub=_ 
terfuges?" he exclaimed with sudden 
warmth. "I suppose there's no use telling 
you I've been very busy, or that I've been 
sick, or that I've been to see you and not 
found you at home. Please let me off with 
any one of these excuses." 



THE AWAKENING 277 

"Youarethe em bodiment of selfish- 
ness. " she gQirl "Y mi caw ypiirgplf some- 
thi ng — T don't Vnnw wVinf but tTi°rp L L i c ? 
some selfish motive, and in sparing yourself 
you never consider for a moment what I 
think, or how I feel your neglect and indif- 
feren ce. Fsuppose thisjs_what_yQ u would 
call unwomanly; but I have got into a habit 
of "expressing myself. It doesn't matter to 
me, and you may think me unwomanly if 
you like." 

"No; I only think you cruel, as I said 
the other day. TVTaybe not intentionally 
cruel; but you seem to be forcing me into 
disclosures which can result in nothing; as 
if you would have me bare a wound for the 
pleasure of looking at it, without the inten- 
tion or power of healing it." 

"I'm spoiling your dinner, Robert; never 
mind what I say. You haven't eaten a 
morsel." 

"I only came in for a cup of coffee." 
His sensitive face was all disfigured with 
excitement. 

"Isn't this a delightful place?" she re- 
marked. "I am so glad it has never actu- 



278 THE AWAKENING 

ally been discovered. It is so quiet, so 
sweet, here. Do you notice there is scarcely 
a sound to be heard? It's so out of the 
way ; and a good walk from the car. How- 
ever, I don't mind walking. I always feel 
so sorry for women who don't like to walk; 
they miss so much — so many rare little 
glimpses of life; ajid^w^-wjirn£jiJ£arn--saJit^ 

"Catiche's coffee is always hot. I don't 
know how she manages it, here in the open 
air. Celestine's coffee gets cold bringing it 
from the kitchen to the dining-room. 
Three lumps! How can you drink it so 
sweet? Take some of the cress with your 
chop; it's so biting and crisp. Then there's 
the advantage of being able to smoke with 
your coffee out here. Now, in the city — 
aren't you going to smoke?" 

"After a while," he said, laying a cigar 
on the table. 

"Who gave it to you?" she laughed. 

"I bought it. I suppose I'm getting 
reckless; I bought a whole box." She was 
determined not to be personal again and 
make him uncomfortable. 



THE AWAKENING 279 

The cat made friends with him, and 
climbed into his lap when he smoked his 
cigar. He stroked her silky fur, and talked 
a little about her. He looked at Edna's 
book, which he had read ; and he told her 
the end, to save her the trouble of wading 
through it, he said. 

Again he accompanied her back to her 
home; and it was after dusk when they 
reached the little ' ' pigeon-house. ' ' She did 
not ask him to remain, which he was grate- 
ful for, as it permitted him to stay without 
the discomfort of blundering through an 
excuse which he had no intention of consid- 
ering. He helped her to light the lamp; 
then she went into her room to take off her 
hat and to bathe her face and hands. 

When she came back Robert was not 
examining the pictures and magazines as 
before ; he sat off in the shadow, leaning his 
head back on the chair as if in a reverie. 
Edna lingered a moment beside the table, 
arranging the books there. Then she went 
across the room to where he sat. She bent 
over the arm of his chair and called his 
name. 



280 



THE AWAKENING 




Robert," she said, "are you asleep?" 
No," he answered, looking up at her. 

Shej eaned over and l dssed_him — a soft, 
cool, delicate kiss, whose voluptuous sting 
penetrated his whole being — then she moved 
away from him. He followed, and took her 
in his arms, just holding her close to him. 
She put her hand up to his face and pressed 
his cheek against her own. The— -a«trerrr~ 
was fiiU.oHo_y£.anc Henderne s5.. He sought 
her lips again. Then he drew her down 
upon the sofa beside him and held her hand 
in both of his. 

ow you know," he said, "now you 
know what I have been fighting against 
since last summer at Grand Isle ; what drove 
me away and drove me back again." 

"Why have you been fighting against 
it?" she asked. Her face glowed with soft 
"Tights. 

"Why? Because you were not_freej_^y_ou 
were Leonce Pontellier's wife. I couldn^t 
help loving you if you were ten times his 
wife; but so long as I went away fronxyou 
and kept away I could help telling you so." 
She put her free hand up to his shoulder, 



THE AWAKENING 281 

and then against his cheek, rubbing it softly. 

He kissed her again. His face was warm i _ , •_,-. 

>r-~ — **-*■ — - — —2 — -, 1 a vtEftMn U\ 

and flushed. ^ \ {J ^ -* 

"There in Mexico I was thinking of you . y xfiT vJyoL. 
all the time, and longing for you." . /VC'V"* 

' ' But not_writing to, me, ' ' she inter- r\t5^ - y* 

rupted. Y3'^ ^Xf\ 

"Something put into my head that you V^Mt > 
cared for me ; and I lost my senses. I for- ^0$-^ 

got everything but a wild dream of your -A 
some way becoming my wife." 

"Your wife!" 

"Religion, loyalty, everything would 
give way if only you cared." 

"Then you must have forgotten that I 
was Leonce Pontellier's wife." 

"Oh! I was demented, dreaming of wild, 
impossible things, recalling men who had 
set their wives free, we have heard of such 
things." 

"Yes, we have heard of such things." 

"I came back full of vague, mad inten- 
tions. And when I got here — " 

"When you got here you never came 
near me!" She was still caressing his 
cheek. 



282 THE AWAKENING 

"I realized what a cur I was to dream of 
such a thing, even if you had been willing. " 

She took his face between her hands and 
looked into it as if she would never with- 
draw her eyes more. She kissed him on 
the foreheadj^theeyes, the cheeks, and the 

"You have been a very, very foolish boy, 
wasting your time dreaming of impossible 
things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier 
setting me free ! I arnno longer one of Mr. 
Pontellier's p^oss ess ions t o disp o se jd.L .or_np t . 
L-given^e^j^he^e_Xxhopse. If he were 
to say, 'Here, Robert, take her and be 
happy; she is yours,' I should laugh at you 
both." 

His face grew a little white. "What do 
you mean?" he asked. 

There was a knock at the door. Old 
Celestine came in to say that Madame 
Ratignolle's servant had come around the 
back way with a message that Madame had 
been taken sick and begged Mrs. Pontellier 
to go to her immediately. 

"Yes, yes," said Edna, rising; "I prom- 



THE AWAKENING 283 

ised. Tell her yes — to wait for me. I'll 
go back with her." 

"Let me walk over with you," offered 
Robert. 

"No," she said; "I will go with the ser- 
vant." She went into her room to put on 
her hat, and when she came in again she sat 
once more upon the sofa beside him. He 
had not stirred. She put her arms about 
his neck. 

"Good-by, my sweet Robert. Tell me 
good-by." He kissed her with a degree of 
passion which had not before entered into 
his caress, and strained her to him. 

"I love vou.". sh^ . whispered, "onlv^vouj 

no one b ut you. /it was you who awoke . ( 

me last summer out of a life-long, stupid 

dream. S Oh ! you have made me so unhappy 

j 
with y<5ur indifference. Oh ! I have suffered, 

suffered ! Now you are_here we shall love 
each other, my Robert. We shall be every- 
thing to each other. Nothing else in the 
world is of any consequence. I must go to 
my friend; but you will wait for me? No 
matter how late; you will wait for me, 
Robert?" 



284 THE AWAKENING 

"Don't go; don't go! Oh! Edna, stay 
with me," he pleaded. "Why should you 
go?_ Stay with me, stay with me." 

"I shall come back as soon as I can; I 
shall find you here." She buried her face 
in his neck, and said good-by again. Her 
seductive voice, together with his great 
love for her, had enthralled his senses, had 
deprived him of every impulse but the 
longing to hold her and keep her. 



XXXVII 

Edna looked in at the drug store. Mon- 
sieur Ratignolle was putting up a mixture 
himself, very carefully, dropping a red 
liquid into a tiny glass. He was grateful to 
Edna for having come ; her presence would 
be a comfort to his wife. Madame Ratig- 
nolle's sister, who had always been with her 
at such trying times, had not been able to 
come up from the plantation, and Adele 
had been inconsolable until Mrs. Pontellier 
so kindly promised to come to her. The 
nurse had been with them at night for the 
past week, as she lived a great distance 
away. And Dr. Mandelet had been coming 
and going all the afternoon. They were 
then looking for him any moment. 

Edna hastened upstairs by a private stair- 
way that led from the rear of the store to 
the apartments above. The children were 
all sleeping in a back room. Madame 
Ratignolle was in the salon, whither she had 
28.5 



286 THE AWAKENING 

strayed in her suffering impatience. She 
sat on the sofa, clad in an ample white 
peignoir, holding a handkerchief tight in 
her hand with a nervous clutch. Her face 
was drawn and pinched, her sweet blue 
eyes haggard and unnatural. All her beau- 
tiful hair had been drawn back and plaited. 
It lay in a long braid on the sofa pillow, 
coiled like a golden serpent. The nurse, a 
comfortable looking Griffe woman in white 
apron and cap, was urging her to return to 
her bedroom. 

"There is no use, there is no use," she 
said at once to Edna. "We must get rid 
of Mandelet; he is getting too old and care- 
less. He said he would be here at half-past 
seven; now it must be eight. See what 
time it is, Josephine." 

The woman was possessed of a cheerful 
nature, and refused to take any situation 
too seriously, especially a situation with 
which she was so familiar. She urged 
Madame to have courage and patience. 
But Madame only set her teeth hard into 
her under lip, and Edna saw the sweat 
gather in beads on her white forehead. 



THE AWAKENING 287 

After a moment or two she uttered a pro- 
found sigh and wiped her face with the 
handkerchief rolled in a ball. She appeared 
exhausted. The nurse gave her a fresh 
handkerchief, sprinkled with cologne water. 

' ' This is too much ! ' ' she cried. ' ' Mande- 
let ought to be killed! Where is Alphonse? 
Is it possible I am to be abandoned like 
this — neglected by every one?" 

' ' Neglected, indeed !' ' exclaimed the nurse. 
Wasn't she there? And here was Mrs. Pon- 
tellier leaving, no doubt, a pleasant evening 
at home to devote to her? And wasn't 
Monsieur Ratignolle coming that very 
instant through the hall? And Josephine 
was quite sure she had heard Doctor Man- 
delet's coupe. Yes, there it was, down at 
the door. 

Adele consented to go back to her room. 
She sat on the edge of a little low couch 
next to her bed. 

Doctor Mandelet paid no attention to 
Madame Ratignolle's upbraidings. He was 
accustomed to them at such times, and 
was too well convinced of her loyalty to 
doubt it. 



288 THE AWAKENING 

He was glad to see Edna, and wanted 
her to go with him into the salon and enter- 
tain him. But Madame Ratigjnolle^wmldL 
not co.nsent that Edna should leave her for 
an instant. Between agonizing moments, 
she chatted a little, and said it took her 
mind off her sufferings. 

Edna began to feel uneasy. She was 
seized with a vague dread. Her own like 
experiences seemed far away, unreal, and 
only half remembered, j She recalled faintly 
an ecstasy of pain, the heavy odor of chloro- 
form, a stupor which had deadened sensa- 
tion, and an awakening to find a little new 
life to which she had given being, added to 
the great unnumbered multitude of souls 
that come and go. 

Sh^_J}£ga^XQ_wish she ha^_not_come ; 
her presence was not necessary. She might 
have invented a pretext for staying away ; 
she might even invent a pretext now for go- 
ing. But Edna_cUd not -go^. With an inward 
agony, with a flaming, outspoken revolt 
against the ways of Nature, she witnessed 
the scene torture. 



THE AWAKENING 289 

She was still stunned and speechless with 
emotion when later she leaned over her 
friend to kiss her and softly say good-by. 
Adele, pressing her cheek, whispered in an 
exhausted voice: "Think of the children, 
Edna. Oh think of the children! Remem- 
ber them!" 



XXXVIII 

Edna still felt dazed when she got out- 
side in the open air. The Doctor's coupe 
had returned for him and stood before the 
porte cochere. She did not wish to enter 
the coupe, and told Doctor Mandelet she 
would walk; she was not afraid, and would 
go alone. He directed his carriage to meet 
him at Mrs. Pontellier's, and he started to 
walk home with her. 

Up — away up, over the narrow street 
between the tall houses, the stars were blaz- 
ing. The air was mild and caressing, but 
cool with the breath of spring and the night. 
They walked slowly, the Doctor with a 
heavy, measured tread and his hands behind 
him ; Edna, in an absent-minded way, as 
she had walked one night at Grand Isle, as 
if her thoughts had gone ahead of her and 
she was striving to overtake them. 

"You shouldn't have been there, Mrs. 
Pontellier, " he said. "That was no place 
290 



THE AWAKENING 291 

for you. Adele is full of whims at such 
times. There were a dozen women she 
might have had with her, unimpressionable 
women. I felt that it was cruel, cruel. 
You shouldn't have gone." 

"Oh, well!" she answered, indifferently. 
"I don't know that it matters after all. 
One has to think of the children some time 
or other; the sooner the better." 
"When is Leonce coming back?" 
"Quite soon. Some time in March." 
"And you are going abroad?" 
"Perhaps — no, I am not going. Fm not 
going tjo_be forcecTThto jdomg^things^ I 
don't want to g^~abToad. I want to be le t 
alone. JSTobody has any right — except chil- / 
dren, perhaps — and even then, it seems to 
me — or it did seem — " She felt that her 
speech was voicing the incoherency of 
her thoughts, and stopped abruptly. 

' ' The trouble is, ' ' sighed the Doctor, grasp- 
ing her meaning intuitively, "that youth is 
given up to illusions. It seems to be a pro- > 
vision of Nature; a decoy to secure moth-N^?-^ 
ers for the race. And Nature takes no' 
account of moral consequences, of arbitrary 



292 THE AWAKENING 

conditions which we create, and which we 
feel obliged to maintain at any cost." 

"Yes," she said. "The years that are 
gone seem like dreams — if one might go on 
sleeping and dreaming — but to wake up 
and find — oh ! well ! perhaps it is better to 
wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than 
to remain a dupe to illusions all one's life." 

"It seems to me, my dear child," said 
the Doctor at parting, holding her hand, 
"you seem to me to be in trouble. I am 
not going to ask for your confidence. I 
will only say that if ever you feel moved to 
give it to me, perhaps I might help you. 
I know I would understand, and I tell you 
there are not many who would — not many, 
my dear." 

"Some way I don't feel moved to speak 
of things that trouble me. Don't think I 
am ungrateful or that I don't appreciate 
your sympathy. There are periods of 
despondency and__ suffering which take pos- 
session of me L But I don't want anything 
but my owjnuway. That is wanting a good 
deal, of course, when you have to trample 
upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of 



THE AWAKENING 293 

others — but no matter — still, I shouldn't 
want to trample upon the little lives. Oh ! I 
don't^know what I'm saying, Doctor. Good 
night. Pont blame me for anything." 

"Yes, I will blame you if you don't come 
and see me soon. We will talk of things 
you never have dreamt of talking about 
before. It will do us both good. I don't 
want you to blame yourself, whatever 
comes. Good night, my child." 

She let herself in at the gate, but instead 
of entering she sat upon the step of the 
porch. The night was quiet and soothing. 
All the tearing emotion of the last few 
hours seemed to fall away from her like a 
somber, uncomfortable garment, which she 
had but to loosen to be rid of. She went 
back to that hour before Adele had sent for 
her; and her senses kindled afresh in think- 
ing of Robert's words, the pressure of his 
arms, and the feeling of his lips upon her 
own. She could picture at that moment no 
greater bliss on earth than possession of the 
beloved one. His expression of love had 
already given him to her in part. When 
she thought that he was there at hand, 



294 THE AWAKENING 

waiting for her, she grew numb with the 
intoxication of expectancy. It was so late; 
he would be asleep perhaps. She would 
awaken him with a kiss. She hoped he 
would be asleep that she might arouse him 
with her caresses. 
y^"- Still, she remembered Adele's voice whis- 
pering, "Think of the children; think of 
them." She meant to think of them; that 
determination had driven into her soul like 
a death wound — but not to-night. To-mor- 
ro w would be time to think of everything. 
Robert was not w aiting for h erjn the liN. 
tie parlo n He was nowhe_re_atJijmd. The 
house was empty. But he had scrawled on 
a piece of paper that lay in the lamplight: 

"I love you. Good-by — because I love 

tt — « — . 

you. 



Edna grew faint when she read the words. 
She went and sat on the sofa. Then she 
stretched herself out there, never uttering a 
sound. She did not sle ep. She did not 
go to bed . The lamp sputtered and went 
out. She was still awake in the morning, 
when Celestine unlocked the kitchen door 
and came in to light the fire. 



XXXIX 

Victor, with hammer and nails and scraps, 
of scantling, was patching a corner of one 
of the galleries. Mariequita sat near by, 
dangling her legs, watching him work, and 
handing him nails from the tool-box. The 
sun was beating down upon them. The girl 
had covered her head with her apron folded 
into a square pad. They had been talking 
for an hour or more. She was never tired 
of hearing Victor describe the dinner at 
Mrs. Pontellier's. He exaggerated every 
detail, making it appear a veritable Lucillean 
feast. The flowers were in tubs, he said. 
The champagne was quaffed from huge 
golden goblets. Venus rising from the foam 
could have presented no more entranci n g, a 
spectacle than Mrs". Pontellier, blazing with 
beauty and diamonds aT~ the TieltoT of the 
board, wnuetneorBLeT^wornenweTe all of 
them youthful houris, possessed of incom- 
parable charms. 

295 




296 THE AWAKENING 

She got it i nto her head that Vic tor was 
in love with _JVLrs J! _^ontellier, and he gave 
Her evasive answers, framed so as to con- 
firm her belief. She grew sullen and cried 
a little, threatening to go off and leave him 
to his fine ladies. There were a dozen men 
crazy about her at the Cheniere; and since 
it was the fashion to be in love with married 
people, why, she could run away any time 
she liked to New Orleans with Celina's hus- 
band. 

Celina's husband was a fool, a coward, and 
a pig, and to prove it to her, Victor in- 
tended to hammer his head into a jelly the 
next time he encountered him. This 
assurance was very consoling to Mariequita. 
She dried her eyes, and grew cheerful at the 
prospect. 

They were still talking of the dinner and 
the allurements of city life when Mrs. Pon- 
tellier herself slipped around the corner of 
the house. The two youngsters stayed 
dumb with amazement before what they 
considered to be an apparition. But it was 
really she in flesh and blood, looking tired 
and a little travel-stained. 



THE AWAKENING 297 

"I walked up from the wharf," she said, 
"and heard the hammering. I supposed it 
was you, mending the porch. It's a good 
thing. I was always tripping over those 
loose planks last summer. How dreary and 
deserted everything looks!" 

It took Victor some little time to com- 
prehend that she had come in Beaudelet's 
lugger, that she had come alone, and for 
no purpose but to rest. 

"There's nothing fixed up yet, you see. 
I'll give you my room ; it's the only place." 

"Any corner will do," she assured him. 

"And if you can stand Philomel's cook- 
ing," he went on, "though I might try to 
get her mother while you are here. Do 
you think she would come?" turning to 
Mariequita. 

Mariequita thought that perhaps Philo- 
mel's mother might come for a few days, 
and money enough. 

Beholding Mrs. Pontellier make her ap- 
pearance, the girl had at once suspected a 
lovers' rendezvous. But Victor's astonish- 
ment was so genuine, and Mrs. Pontellier's 
indifference so apparent, that the disturbing 



«^v 



298 THE AWAKENING 

notion did not lodge long in her brain. She 

contemplated with the greatest interest this 

■v^Kvoman who gave the most sumptuous din- 

'/N.ners in America, and who had all the men 

in New Orleans at her feet. 

"What time wil l you h a ve di nner?" 
asked .bdna. " I'rrT very hungry ; but do n't 
get anything extra." 

"I'll have it ready in little or no time," 
he said, bustling and packing away his 
tools. "You may go to my room to brush 
up and rest yourself. Mariequita will show 
you." 

' ' Thank you, ' ' said Edna. ' ' But, do you 
know, I have a notion to go down to the 
beach and take a good wash and even a lit- 
tle swim, before dinner?" 

"The water is too cold!" they both 
exclaimed. "Don't think of it." 

"Well, I might go down and try — dip 
my toes in. Why, it seems to me the sun 
is hot enough to have warmed the very 
depths of the ocean. Could you get me a 
couple of towels? I'd better go right away, 
so as to be back in time. It would be a little 



too chilly if I waited till this afternoon." 



THE AWAKENING 299 

Mariequita ran over to Victor's room, and 
returned with some towels, which she gave 
to Edna. 

"I hope you have fi sh for dinne/ , " said >J ^ 
Edna, as she started to walk away; "but 
don't do anything extra if you haven't." 

"Run and find Philomel's mother," Vic- 
tor instructed the girl. "I'll go to the 
,kitchen and see what I can do. By Gim- 
miny ! Women have no consideration ! She 
might have sent me word." 

Edna walked on down to the beach rather 
mechanically, not noticing anything special 
except that the sun was hot. She was not 
dwelling upon any particular train of 
thought. S he had do ne all the t hjjjfcu^fy 
whichwas necessary after Robert went 
away, when she lay awake upon the sofa 
till morning. 

She had said over and over to herself: 
"To-day it is Arobin; to- morrow it will he - 
some one else. It makes no d ifference to 
me, it doesn't matter about Leonce Pon- 
tellier — but Raoul and Etienne!" She 



understood now clearly what she had meant 
long ago when she said to Adele Ratignolle 



300 



THE AWAKENING 



7""" whf 



that she would give up the unessential, but 
she would never sacrifice herself for her 
children. 

Despondency had come upon her there 
in the wakeful night, and had never lifted. 
There was n o one thing in the world that 
she desired, there was no human being 
whonTshe wanred near her except Robert; 
and she even realized that the day would 
come when he, too, and the thought of him 
would melt out of her existence, leaving her 
alone. .The children appeared before her 
like, antagonists who had overcome her; 
who had overpowered and sought to drag^ 
her into the soul's slavery fo r^ the rest of 
her days. But she knew ? way fo ejndp 
the m. She was n ot thinking of th es eithings 




when she walked down tn the 

The water of the Gurr stretched out 
before her, gleaming with the million lights 
of the sun. The voice of the sea is seduc- 
tive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, 
murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in 
aJb^ses^&I^solitude. All along the white 
beach, up and down, there was no living 
* thing in sight. A bird with a broken wing 



THE AWAKENING 301 

was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, " -, 
circling disabled down, down to the water. } 

Edna had found her old bathing suit still 
hanging, faded, upon its accustomed peg."""\ 

She put it on, leaving her clothing in the J 
bath-house. But when she was there beside / 
the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the I 
unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and ^S 
for th e first time in her life she stood nake d / 
in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, V 
the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves X 
that invited her. 

How strange and awful it seemed to stand 
naked under the sky! how delicious! She 
felt Hke some new-born creature, opening 
its eyes in a familiar world that it had never 
known. 

The foamy wavelets curled up to her 
white feet, and coiled like serpents about her^ 
ankles. She walked out. The water was chill, 
but she walked on. The water was deep, 
but she lifted her white body and reached'' 
out with a long, sweeping stroke. Th< 
touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the 
body in its soft, close embrace. 

She went on and on. She remembered 



3 02 THE AWAKENING 

the night she swam far out, and recalled 
the terror that seized her at the fear of 
being unable to regain the shore. She did 
not look back now, but went on and on, 
thinking of the blue-grass meadow that she 
had traversed when a little child, believing 
that it had no beginning and no end. 

Her arms and legs were growing tired. 

She thought^o X, L&n^nr-&_ar ujjjhe^hj|dren . 
TJn^y were a par t, of her _Hfe. But they_ 
need not have thought that they_^ould_rjos- 
sess her, body and soul. How Mademoi- 
selle Reisz wouimiave" laughed, perhaps 
sneered, if she knew! "And you call your- 
self an artist ! What pretensions, Madame ! 
The a rtist m ust po ssess the courageous soul 
that da res and d e fies." 

Exhaustion was pressing upon and over- 
powering her. 

"Good-by — because, I lov e you." He 
did not know; he did not understand. 
Hewould never understand. Perhaps Doctor 
Mandelet would have understood if she had 
seen him — but it was too late; the shore 
was far behind her, and her strength was 
gone. 



THE AWAKENING 303 

She looked into t he distance, and the old 
terror flamed up for an instant, then sank 
again. Edna heard her father's voice and 
Iter sister Margaret's. She heard the bark- 
ing of an old dog that was chained to the 
sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry 
officer clanged as he walked across the porch 
There was the hum of bees, and the musky 
odor of pinks filled the air. 



n. 



PRINTED BY R. R. DONNELLEY 
AND SONS COMPANY AT THE 
LAKESIDE PRESS, CHICAGO, ILL.